SSO Presents: Symphonie Fantastique


by Burt Thyng

On Saturday evening, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) took to stage Hector Berlioz’s (1803 – 1869) masterpiece, Symphonie Fantastique, led by guest conductor by Jean-Claude Casadesus.

Originally named “Episode in the Life of an Artist”, Symphonie Fantastique reflects the tortured dreams of a lovesick Berlioz who takes an overdose of opium and is haunted by visions of an unattainable woman. He vividly portrays his hallucinations in five scenes.

That night’s performance seemed to have fallen short of the intensity that Berlioz wanted audiences to feel. Jean-Claude Casadesus although expressive on stage with his body language, lacked rapport with the SSO to create the needed theatrical drama that outlined many important parts; for example the guillotine drop.

Some parts felt rushed and not given more time like the rallents in the second movement. Also, the many transitions from fortissimo to pianissimo in this piece is vital but sadly lacking. All of which mentioned could have been done with an accomplished orchestra like the SSO under the right leadership.

In any case, it was still a good effort by our orchestra nonetheless to accommodate the visiting French conductor. On a high note, Ukranian violinist Valeriy Sokolov thoroughly entertained the crowd with Brahms’ technically demanding Violin Concerto in D Major, performing for up to an hour for 2 of the pieces from memory.