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Hector Berlioz

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Classical iconoclast

February 2

Paris en fête : How to make classical music fun !

Classical iconoclast How to make classical music fun without dumbing down ! Paris en fête,with François-Xavier Roth conducting Les Siècles at the Philharmonie de Paris this week, broadcast live HERE.  Proof that "education" without genuine excellence, is counter productive.  This should be compulsory viewing for bureaucrats and audiences who think culture must be forced down grimly like it were poison.  Please read my article End the Missionary Position in Classical Music !  This concert was so good that I've listened several times over . presumably many in the audience want more, too.  Roth is a wonderful communicator, whose enthusiasm inspires because he believes in what he does : he doesn't play games and doesn't ever, dumb down. Carmen, first. But "Who is Carmen?"  asks Antoine Pecqeuer,  another born communicator who doesn't need hype to do what he does. Carmen is popular the world over because she's a personality. Carmen lives forever : self centred Don Josés will never understand.  Thus the essence of what opera should be : human emotions in universal, infinite variety. Which is why small minds do get art.  As Pecqeuer reminded us, Carmen bombed at its premiere because it was ahead of its time. Isabelle Druet talks about Carmen so unaffectedly that the Habanera seems an extension of the personality.  Part of the fun, too, is that the Choeur des Grand Ecoles is bigger than you'd ever get on an opera stage.  Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Délibes, Berlioz, Offenbach, a programme of pieces familiar to French audience  but with a twist to show that French repertoire is not parochial - the Bachannale from Samson et Delila. Pecqeuer talks about French tradition, from Lully to Boulez, and Roth expands. Dance is the foundation for rhythm,  structure and inventiveness. Thus, Un bal from the Symphonie fantastique.   From Berlioz, instrumental experiments and sophisticated colour.  "What does Paris mean to you ?", Pecqeuer as the audience, many of whom are young children. "Le pain" says one, totally matter of fact.  Then, the overture from La vie Parisienne, and the Infernal Gallop from Orphée aux Enfers. By now the audience are really getting into the spirit.  The Infernal Gallop, "the can can", yet again, this time with the audience singing along, Roth speeding up the tempi. Everyone's exhilarated, high on the thrill.  Is classical music elitist or dull?  No way !  Those at this concert will come away feeling that music is a vital part of life.   

Guardian

February 13

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Cohen review –Méhul's music shines in the spotlight

St John’s Smith Square, London A programme marking the bicentenary of Étienne Méhul’s death made the case for the French composer’s originalityThis superb concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Jonathan Cohen marked the bicentenary of the death of Étienne Nicolas Méhul, one of the leading French composers in the decades following the revolution, and a figure to whom history has not always been kind. The first composer to be dubbed “Romantic”, he links the classicism of Gluck, whom he adored, with the extravagances of Berlioz, though his experiments with form, harmony and sonority in a quest to match sound with subject, make him, on occasion, difficult to pin down stylistically. Related: Étienne Méhul: Romantic vanguard who deserves a fresh revolution Continue reading...




Royal Opera House

February 10

Remembering Nicolai Gedda’s Covent Garden performances

Nicolai Gedda (1925–2017) had one of the most majestic voices of his generation. He had an exceptional ear for music and lyrics, singing fluently in seven languages. Added to this was a robust technique that kept his top register secure well into his later life. His long and illustrious stage career included many memorable appearances at Covent Garden. Gedda trained at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and made his professional debut in 1951 with the Royal Swedish Opera . In 1953 Gedda made his debut at La Scala, Milan , as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni . Further international debuts soon followed, including at Covent Garden, as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto , in 1954. After this sensational debut Gedda returned to sing the title role in La Damnation de Faust with the Company under Georg Solti at the Edinburgh Festival. But perhaps his most impressive work with The Royal Opera during this period were his performances in the testing title role of Benvenuto Cellini in 1966 and 1969 under John Pritchard and in 1976 under Colin Davis , in a production directed by John Dexter . His further roles with The Royal Opera included Alfredo (La traviata , opposite Montserrat Caballé ), Gustavus (Un ballo in maschera ) Lensky (Eugene Onegin ) and Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore ). He made his final Covent Garden appearance in 1997 as Abdisu in Pfitzner ’s Palestrina . Gedda had an immense vocal style, elegance and grace, which he brought to all his roles. His versatility – from Verdi, Berlioz and Lehár, to the composers for whom he created roles, including Barber and Orff – marked him out as a truly special musician. His colleague Luciano Pavarotti once remarked, ‘There is no tenor alive with a greater ease in the upper register than Gedda’. The Royal Opera’s Director of Opera, Kasper Holten , paid this tribute: ‘It is with great sadness we learn that Nicolai Gedda has passed away. For a long time he was a true giant of the opera world. He inspired and moved countless audiences, including at Covent Garden, with his extraordinary voice and artistry. The memory of this wonderful artist will never leave us.’



Hector Berlioz
(1803 – 1869)

Hector Berlioz (December 11, 1803 – March 8, 1869) was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts (Requiem). Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a conductor, he performed several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians. He also composed around 50 songs. His influence was critical for the further development of Romanticism, especially in composers like Richard Wagner, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and many others.



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