A composition that marked the birth of the modern symphony orchestra, it was instead through the medium of the piano that Symphonie fantastique became generally known to the public when Franz Liszt a prime champion of the music of his friend, Hector Berlioz made a transcription of the work for solo keyboard. The project undertaken here by Jean-François Heisser and Marie-Josèphe Jude continues that respected tradition, but it doubles the stakes and multiplies the pleasure: the expanded sound palette offered by the two-keyboard piano constructed by Pleyel and housed at Paris Museum of Music gives rise to unexpected colours emanating from the shared resonator box, and their fingerings (twenty fingers strong) can reproduce the minutest details of Berliozs dazzling, ground-breaking orchestral writing. The work of a master indeed!
New insights abound, with a truly affecting wistful fragility in the symphony’s opening pages, supplanted by impressive richness of tone once Berlioz’s tale truly sparks into life. There are, inevitably, moments that fall short of the orchestral palette, especially in the witches’ Sabbath…yet there is still magic aplenty in this intriguing perspective on Berlioz’s vision. BBC Music Magazine ****