BERLIOZ: Overtures: Le Corsaire, Op. 21. Béatrice et Bénédict. Les Francs-juges, Op. 3. Le Carnaval romain, Op. 9. Waverly, Op. 1. Le Roi Lear, Op. 4.
Bergen Philharmonic Orch/Sir Andrew Davis, cond.

WEINGARTNER: Symphony No. 7 in C, Op. 88
Tschechischer Philharmonischer Chor Brünn; Sinfonieorchester Basel/Marko Letonja, cond.
CPO SACD 777 103 TT: 72:02

RAFF: Symphony No. 2, Op. 140. Prelude in G minor to Shakespeare's The Tempest. Prelude in C minor to Shakespeare's Macbeth. Prelude in D to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Prelude in D to Shakespeare's Othello.
Suisse Romande Orch/Neeme Järvi, cond.

Should you be looking for a single disk that contains all major overtures of Berlioz, here it is—with dazzling performances by the Bergen Philharmonic under the dynamic direction of Sir Andrew Davis. No dawdling here, the music moves in the most exciting manner, and the Chandos engineers have captured the composer's brilliant orchestration vividly. This is a winner on all counts.

Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) was a respected conductor of his time. Highlights of his podium career can be found on this site's earlier mention of a recording of his Symphony No. 4, music for Der Sturm, and Serenade for String Orchestra (REVIEW). Also covered was a disk of the symphonic poem Das Gefilde der Seligen and Symphony No. 2 (REVIEW), Symphony No. 3 coupled with Lustige Overture (REVIEW), and Symphony No. 6 coupled with the symphonic poems Frühling and La Tragica (REVIEW). All of these feature the Basel Philharmonic directed by Marko Letonja, also featured on this latest issue in the series, the large-scale Symphony No. 7, the composer's last, scored for four vocal soloists and chorus just like Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, plus an organ. It lasts about the same as Beethoven's (62:02) and has four movements, Andante pesante, Andante sostenuto, Allegro apassionato, and Andante tranquillo -Vivace. Texts are setting of Hebbel's Two Wanderers, Studer's Your earthly day will soon mature into evening, and Hölderlin's Hymn to Love. If you wish to know more about the music you surely won't get any help from the obtuse pedantic program notes by Eckhardt von den Hoogen, whose writings have diminished other releases in this cpo series. Symphony No. 7 is a somewhat intriguing oddity, music written by a leading conductor of Beethoven and Brahms but very far removed from the latter's genius. Excellent performances and sound from the Basel performers.

German-Swiss composer Joachim Raff (1822-1882) composed prolifically, eleven symphonies, piano, violin and cello concertos, six operas, varied music for strings, many overtures and other symphonic works. Although he was highly regarded during his time, Raff's music is seldom performed today and for good reason. A fine craftsman, his music is prosaic with rather banal themes often repeated in different keys. Raff gave descriptive titles to most of his music, including various episodes in his four Shakespearian preludes composed in 1879, all detailed in Avrohom Leightling's fine CD notes. One can occasionally hear the influences of Mendelssohn and Liszt iun Raff's music, but the overall result is forgettable as is Symphony No. 2, scored for large orchestra, which dates from 1866. Nothing memorable here. Järvi and the fine Scottish orchestra play vigorously, and the Chandos engineers have done their usual fine job, but there's little here that most listeners would want to hear often.

R.E.B. (March 2013)