The symphony that is not one: Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with Gergiev and the LSO 6/11/13

‘What is there to say about Hector Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette? A “dramatic symphony” in seven movements, featuring small and large choruses, and three soloists (two of whom sing for around five minutes each and one who sings for around 30), as well as a treasure trove of unusual instrumental combinations and sounds, it is safe to say this is something of an odd bird. Add to this a libretto by Émile Deschamps which not only misses out a great deal of Shakespeare’s drama but goes so far as to reorder it and even mentions the playwright by name, and it becomes apparent there’s something truly wacky afoot. And even that’s leaving out Berlioz’s frankly astonishing approach to melody and harmony. With echoes of Wagner, Brahms, and even Debussy scattered throughout, as well as a mind-bending reimagination of the Baroque “mad scene” for a new age, it is difficult to believe this piece was written in 1839.’

Read the rest of this review at Bachtrack.

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Uncanny, surpassing Berlioz from Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican 31/10/13

‘A smattering of confused applause greeted gay rights activist Peter Tatchell to the Barbican Hall’s stage before the first instalment of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Berlioz cycle under Valery Gergiev. Stating that he did not wish to disrupt the performance, Tatchell made it clear he was there to protest Gergiev’s noted unwillingness to criticise Vladimir Putin’s record on human rights, particularly with regard to Russia recently prohibiting the dissemination of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors”. Such demonstrations are nothing new to Valery Gergiev, whose concerts over the last few months have frequently been the subject of such protests, often far more disruptive than Tatchell’s restrained effort. The security (and an irate principal trumpet) having removed Tatchell from the platform, an apparently untroubled Gergiev came to the platform and launched a seemingly possessed LSO into some of the most thrilling Berlioz one could ever hope to hear.’

Read the whole review at Bachtrack here. Very much looking forward to Roméo et Juliètte on Wednesday…