Gianandrea Noseda does fast and furious Beethoven in the contemporary way, and the Israel Philharmonic represents a living memory-in-sound of the old-world orchestral style that many European ensembles have left behind. So what happens when they meet? And in that era-defining (or is it ‘defying’?) work of the Romantic musical imagination, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, where sonata form goes on a blind date with drugged-up love?
Turns out they get along famously – Noseda has been the IPO’s principal guest conductor since 2011. In this live recording from January 2014, lean string playing imparts a low-vibrato shimmer to the ‘Scene in the Country’ movement straight from the Alpes-Maritime summers of Berlioz’s childhood. There’s an authentic growl to the brass in the ‘March to the Scaffold’ which suggests the presence (or conveys the sinister feel) of the ophicleide – that extraordinary keyboard brass instrument that Berlioz asks for and almost never gets – though his hero heads for the guillotine at an old-fashioned dash in defiance of the metronome mark. Pushed to the front of the picture by the engineers, the woodwind revel in the ‘Witches’ Rondo’, accompanied by bells pitched an octave too high.