Evening of the music by Berlioz
Last night the Society was pleased to welcome Alastair Aberdare, Chair of the Berlioz Society who presented what he calls a Berlioz Miscellany. This was an illustrated presentation with portraits and photographs of the composer and scenes from his operas.
Most of the music played was by British conductors for example, Sir Roger Norrington; the late Sir Colin Davies and John Eliot Gardiner. It these conductors, along with others in the past such as Sir Thomas Beecham, who have done much to popularise this composer and expand the repertoire of recorded compositions. It is also noteworthy that the finest biography is by the Society’s president, David Cairns.
Alastair said there were two key facts about Berlioz: one is the creation of mood by using different orchestrations and the second is that he is always ‘telling a story’. In addition to being a fine composer, Berlioz wrote several books including Evenings in the Orchestra and a treatise on orchestration. He was also a journalist and some of his pieces are being made available on the Berlioz website
The first piece was the youthful overture Les Francs-Juges which older readers will recall was used in the BBC programme Face to Face. The second piece was a wistful melody le Jeune Pâtre Breton. For some who still see this composer as someone writing for big forces, the delicacy of his songs can be a surprise.
Next was the Marche funèbre pour la dernièr scène d’Hamlet. Berlioz was captivated by Shakespeare and wrote several pieces based on his works most famously, Romeo and Juliet. This was followed by La Course l’abîme from La Damnation de Faust a work which failed to appeal when it was first introduced and the negative reaction greatly disappointed the composer.
This was followed by the Pantomime scene from his great work Les Troyens which Berlioz never heard in its complete form and was pronounced unperformable for many years. The Duo Nocturne from Beatrice and Bénédict followed which was based on another of Shakespeare’s plays Much Ado About Nothing. Back to the songs with a performance by Dame Janet Baker of Spectre de la Rose from the charming song cycle Les nuits d’été and there was just time to hear a movement from Te Deum.
An excellent evening.
In two weeks it’s the members’ evening starting at 7.30 as normal on 30 November.