Magazine article Gramophone

Berlioz * Weber: Berlioz Harold En Italie, Op 16

Magazine article Gramophone

Berlioz * Weber: Berlioz Harold En Italie, Op 16

Article excerpt

Berlioz * Weber

Berlioz Harold en Italie, Op 16 (a). La captive, Op 12 (a). Plaisir d'amour (a) Weber Andante and Rondo ungarese (a). Aufforderung zum Tanz (orch Berlioz)

(a) Lawrence Power va

Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Andrew Manze

Hyperion (F) CDA68193 (71' * DDD)

What's the longest viola joke in the world? Harold in Italy. It didn't make Niccolo Paganini laugh though. The virtuoso fiddler, having acquired a Stradivarius viola, tried to persuade Hector Berlioz to write something to show off the instrument. When he saw the sketches for the first movement were peppered with long rests, Paganini was disappointed. 'What you want is a viola concerto', sighed Berlioz, suggesting Paganini would be better writing one himself. After Paganini had gone off in a huff, Berlioz developed the work into a four-movement successor to his Symphonie fantastique, a symphony with a viola obbligato acting as 'melancholy dreamer in the manner of Byron's Childe-Harold'. It's difficult to see how viola players find it an attractive proposition--40 minutes of music which can run out of steam, where the soloist gets little chance to shine--and yet, like Lawrence Power here, they queue up to record it. Indeed, Antoine Tamestit has set it down twice.

Power's mellow tone makes for a poetic reading as the Byronic brooder, his echo of the opening theme as delicate as gossamer. Andrew Manze leads Power and the Bergen Philharmonic on a swift hike across the Alps, keeping meandering to a minimum. …

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