Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique; Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Mussorgsky: Night On Bald Mountain; Eugene Ormandy

This disc contains works by three composers: Hector Berlioz, Paul Dukas, and Modest Mussorgsky, all as conducted by Eugene Ormandy and played by the Philadelphia Orchestra.

It’s is one of those classical discs you’d find in a $5 bin in the 90s (this was released in 1990), on Sony Classical under a series called Essential Classics. You can still get copies on Discogs for $3.

But don’t be thrown by low price or, perhaps even, names you haven’t heard. This is some heady stuff, and there’s a thread through them all. See if you can spot it:

Berlioz is known for his Symphonie Fantastique: “Leonard Bernstein described the symphony as the first musical expedition into psychedelia because of its hallucinatory and dream-like nature, and because history suggests Berlioz composed at least a portion of it under the influence of opium. According to Bernstein, “Berlioz tells it like it is. You take a trip, you wind up screaming at your own funeral.” (Wiki)

Meanwhile, Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice “is a symphonic poem by the French composer Paul Dukas, completed in 1897. Subtitled “Scherzo after a ballad by Goethe”, the piece was based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 1797 poem of the same name. By far the most performed and recorded of Dukas’s works, its notable appearance in the Walt Disney 1940 animated film Fantasia has led to the piece becoming widely known to audiences outside the classical concert hall.” (Wiki)

And finally, but not least, is Mussorgsky’s Night On Bald Mountain, is “also known as Night on the Bare Mountain, is a series of compositions by Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881). Inspired by Russian literary works and legend, Mussorgsky composed a “musical picture”, St. John’s Eve on Bald Mountain… on the theme of a Witches’ Sabbath occurring on St. John’s Eve, which he completed on that very night, 23 June 1867. Together with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko (1867), it is one of the first tone poems by a Russian composer.” (Wiki)

So, did you guess the common thread? That’s right, the theme of these Romantic orchestral works is “…the ironically exaggerated, the macabre, the grotesque and ghostly.” (from the liner notes). Magic, emotion, and the supernatural run through these pieces, and listening to this disc top to bottom is one hell of a ride. 

Next time you’re digging through the discount bins, you’d do well to not skip this one!



13 thoughts on “Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique; Dukas: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Mussorgsky: Night On Bald Mountain; Eugene Ormandy

  1. 80smetalman says:

    Growing up near Philadelphia in the 1970s, I heard a lot about how great the Philadelphia Orchestra was under Eugene Ormandy. It was said to have been the best in the world at that time. You provide an interesting insight.


    1. keepsmealive says:

      Best in the world? Hot damn, I’d believe it, though I haven’t seen any live footage (I ought to) I can hear the skill… I can definitely recommend their work on these pieces, for sure!

      Man, Philly in the 70s. The Broad Street Bullies then, too! Also, Wayne Simmonds was doing so awesome here in Toronto (so happy to be home) until he got hurt last game, now he’s out probably 6 weeks. Gah.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 80smetalman says:

        Shame about Wayne but I have fond memories of the Broad Street Bullies. Last month, I celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Flyers beating the Soviet Central Red Army team 4-1. I think that was the only time in history when all of North America rooted for the Flyers!


        1. keepsmealive says:

          Yeah he’ll be back soon (hopefully). He was playing so well, scoring goals, being a big presence on the ice, mentoring the Leafs’ whippersnappers haha. 45 years since the Central Red Army, eh? I was 1 year old. I’m certain my Dad would have watched it, though. LOL not many times everyone cheered for the Flyers like that, for sure. Man, now I wanna hit up Youtube and check out that game…

          Liked by 1 person

            1. keepsmealive says:

              And not to mention they are on Boston (8-1-2)’s tail for second place in the East Division currently (8-3-2)! My Leafs are still tops at 9-2-1, but Montreal (8-2-2) is coming on strong. Man I can’t lie, I am loving watching all these North division match-ups.

              Liked by 1 person

                1. keepsmealive says:

                  Haha you sound like a Leafs fan! We can’t seem to beat them either. At least, not when it matters. Trading Chara to Washington and Torey Krug to St. Louis was interesting for their defense, and David Backes traded out too, and this’ll be Rask’s last season (he says). Much as I have a Leafs-fan’s hate-on for the Bruins, I can never stay mad at Patrice Bergeron (I’d have him on any team anywhere) and David Pastrnak (what a player!).

                  Liked by 1 person

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