BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique. London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Williams, conductor. (MCA Classics, digital, 1 CD, MCAD-25190. 58 min.) - This unusually well-recorded ``Symphonie fantastique'' starts off rousingly and evolves into a solid but slightly stodgy reading in the final two movements. Williams gives the first movement its needed ebb and flow, and the grace of the ``Un bal'' movement is beguiling. From then on, things get less insightful, but throughout there are those superior recording techniques, for which this young company deserves high praise. NIELSEN Symphonies 1 (G minor, Op. 7) & 4 (Op. 29, ``Inextinguishable''). Royal Danish Orchestra, Paavo Berglund, conductor. (RCA Victor Red Seal, digital, 1 CD, 7701-2-RC. 65 min.) - There are at least three conductors beginning Nielsen symphony cycles, and, on the basis of these two performances, Berglund's will be highly competitive. He gives us an astringent Nielsen, a dramatic Nielsen, and Nielsen the coloristic experimenter (one could mistake the finale of the Fourth for Janacek!). Berglund's view is specialized, but it is most persuasive, and the Royal Danish Orchestra plays with utter commitment and true passion.
JOSHUA BELL Presenting Joshua Bell. Pieces by Wieniawski, Sibelius, Brahms, Paganini, Bloch, Novacek, Schumann, Falla, Grasse, Sarasate. Joshua Bell, violin, Samuel Sanders, piano. (London, digital, 1 CD, 417 891-2. 65 min.) Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 (G minor, Op. 26) and Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto (E minor, Op. 64). Joshua Bell, violin. Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Neville Marriner, conductor. (London, digital, 1 CD, 421 145-2. 55 min.) - Bell is an accomplished, fervent violinist, and his debut album of small pieces gives a good sense of the young musician beginning to formulate ideas about how he feels about music. The Bruch and Mendelssohn - his first concerto performances on record - are hampered by a tenuousness, and less-than-ideal accompaniments, which make one wish a more incisive maestro had been at the helm to help this young artist achieve the sort of interpretive details that are missing here.
SAINT-SA"ENS Concerto No 3 (B minor, Op. 61); Havanaise (B minor, Op. 83); Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso (Op. 28). Augustin Dumay, violin. Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Hikotaro Yazaki, conductor. (EMI/Angel, digital, 1 CD, 7478932. 48 min.) - Though recorded in 1982, these performances are just now being issued on CD. Dumay is clearly a talent to watch - a strong player, with a sure sense of the style of this music and a sufficiently dazzling technique to pull it all off. The ``Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso'' is especially exciting yet suave. And it is nice to have these three finest examples of Saint-Sa"ens's violin writing together on one CD, though, at a scant 48 minutes, EMI/Angel is not being overly generous.