The new SACD Hybrid release on Telarc with Jarvi conducting the Cincinnati is surprisingly good. It is recorded extremely well and the performance is top notch.
For another suggestion, you might also want to get the RCA Living Stereo release of Charles Munch conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
If memory serves, Chesky Records produced a 180 gram LP of this work.
Sir Thomas Beecham and Jean Martinon performance versions are my recommendations.
Sir Thomas Beecham and the ORTF performed the Sym. Fantastique with a melancholy and relayed the dream like state of this work very well. The sound is more than acceptable, but do not expect audio demonstration quality.
Jean Martinon also performed the same piece with the ORTF and delivered an equally stunning performance.
The links are included for your reference, but I do NOT endorse Tower Records.
I have many recommendable versions on LP, but on the CD, from my own personal listenting, I can recommend the Symphonie Fantastique version LONDON G2-36839 with the Chicago Symphony, Sir Georg Solti, conducting. It is a live recording from the 1992 Saltzburg Whisun Concert, Grosses Festspielhaus. I just listened to it and I can recommend it from both the interpretation as well as the sonics. It also includes Franz Lizt's Les Prelude in what is a sonic blockbuster. However, I looked for it at Amazon and Tower and see that it is out of stock. I suggest you try good sources for used CD's. An Audiogoner has recommended a version on Telarc, and I have an LP of that version and it is a good one.
I like Charles Dutoit with the Montreal Symphony.
I have many versions on CD (7) and have heard many more. The best place to start is the Davis/Phillips 50 Greatest which was with Concertgebouw Orch., long standing for many years as one of best performances this version is special remaster that improves sound noticeably.........but for some unknown reason is now hard to find and they are back to selling standard Davis/Phillips version. I got mine 1-2 yrs ago, don't fall for all the hype about the new Davis LSO live CD, it is nowhere near as good.
NCARV........Many will not even try the Dutoit/London version, but that would be a big mistake since this is easily one of the best versions available, and has the best sound quality of any version I have heard! The performance is suprisingly robust and energetic when called for, great choice that is often overlooked.
For budget price the new Talmi/Naxos is very good although not one of the top three choices it is better than many of the big name versions and has very good sound.
Two used versions are worth seeking at Amazon since they are currently out of catalog:
Both are excellent performances with lots of atmosphere and excitement, the problem is both are brightly lit recordings especially the Paray.....but still should be owned because the performances stand the test of time.
I would have to highly recommend Charles Munch - Boston Symphony Jvc Xrcd (JMCXR-0001) rendition of Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. This would be my first choice in a cd purchase. Enclused below are a few review links
of this cd.
To the gentlemen who have recommended the XRCD of Symphonie Fantastique, have you compared them to other pressings? I ask because while I am a fan of XRCD's, I find that many people hype them based on the fact that they are XRCD's...........not based on the performances themselves.
For a very recent and interesting performance try Minkowski. I heard it & was very impressed (don't remember the particulars, sorry).
Otherwise, Sir T Beecham/ French Radio Tel. Orch is legendary (EMI, 1957/8) and P. Monteux/Paris S O from the '30s (Music & Arts) is extraordinarily powerful. As you can expect, the sound on the '30s version, is nothing to write home about -- but bearable nonetheless.
I have not heard the Munch XRCD but do own the Munch/RCA Cd and think the sound may be a litlle above average but nothing spectacular.....especially when compared to a newer top recording like Dutoit/London.
I am really not all that impressed with the Munch/RCA performance either but keep it around because so many professional reviewers seem to like it.
if you don't mind a mono recording then try Van Beinum with Ceoncertgebouw from 1946...the best i've ever heard!
I have heard a lot of versions, and while I like the Munch somewhat, I'd say the Telarc/Jarvi version is quite good; if you have an SACD player it's a bonus, as it really has good sound as an SACD, not your old Telarc house sound at all. There was an old Stereophile article years ago comparing the versions at the time (late 80s--Building a Library--back in the days when you had a good classical music review section in Stereophile) which is useful in learning about the various scores out there--some use coronets in the second movement, for example--worth reading, although the recommendations obviously won't include the recent recordings. I'm a little ambivalent about the Dutoit, as I've always felt his recordings, while pristine, lacked the energy and excitement that others have (and that I've heard from him in live concerts). Another good recording, and pretty good interpretation and performance, is the New Jersey Symphony/Macaal on Delos, although it isn't the best I've heard.
Iasi, no Celebidache recommendation on this one? :^)
Rcprince, i'd love a Celibidache Fantastique, but i'm not aware that he ever recorded it...next time i'll see you i'll let you try the van Beinum...
There's a rogue version of Celibidache with his Munich Orch. I only heard it once on one of the ubiquitous "buyme-phone" labels. IMO, it's not recommended for Celi fanatics...
Stick to Beecham. OTOH, if we were talking about a different view of Mozart's Requiem, Celi could be THE ticket.
I love to hear the chimes in the fifth movement. It has such a haunting feel to it. The version that does the best job with the chimes is the 1997 Deutsche Grammophon recording of the Cleveland Orchestra with Pierre Boulez. The chimes are in the foreground with each note just hanging in the air. Other recordings that I have heard have the chimes lost in the background and create no emotional felling at all.