Title: Harold en Italie
Performers: Tabea Zimmermann, London Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Colin Davis
Length: 41 minutes
Berlioz is one of the true original composers, a case that comes around once in a blue moon, his originality is not only in conceptual terms but also in musical terms, and the two are intimately related.
As before in his Symphonie Fantastique, Berlioz inspires himself in literature to compose music, in this case Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. This allows Berlioz to be considerably more expressive in his music, sacrificing all nice things to serving the emotional requirements of the literary creation.
At moments this work is beautiful while in other it is brutal, at times epic and at other tender, and all of it might happen inside the same movement. When depicting emotion Berlioz finds the fast-slow-fast-fast idea quite against nature. This is a truly new approach in music and Berlioz is a master of it. Great recording.
Lord Byron's poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage inspired the mood of Harold. The poem is a fragment of an epic with a quintessentially Romantic hero. Berlioz wrote, "My intention was to write a series of orchestral scenes, in which the solo viola would be involved as a more or less active participant while retaining its own character. By placing it among the poetic memories formed from my wanderings in the Abruzzi, I wanted to make the viola a kind of melancholy dreamer in the manner of Byron’s Childe-Harold." That he had recycled some of the material from his discarded concert overture, Rob-Roy went unmentioned.