ELAINE SIVERSEN WELCOMES THE RETURN OF A FAVOURITE
It was only one of many publications written by the composer, the most important being his Grand Treatise on Instrumentation and Modern Orchestration. Berlioz gained a reputation as a brilliant orchestrator, and for his own compositions he often specified huge orchestral forces and conducted several concerts with more than 1000 musicians including vocal soloists, choirs and instruments and sometimes a military band.
Berlioz began conducting out of frustration with other conductors who failed to understand his advanced progressive works with their extended melodies and rhythmic complexity. He travelled to London and many European cities, including St Petersburg and Moscow, in order to conduct his orchestral works and to present them to audiences as he intended them to be heard. His work as a conductor convinced Charles Hallé, Hans von Bülow and others that he was the greatest conductor of his era. A second edition of the Treatise was also published with a new chapter detailing aspects of conducting.
The Treatise established his reputation as a master of orchestration and the work was closely studied by Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss, both also recognised as amongst the great orchestrators. When he was a student, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, later also renowned as an orchestrator, attended the concerts which Berlioz conducted in Moscow and St Petersburg. He was greatly influenced by Berlioz’ writings when he was compiling his own textbook on orchestration.
Evenings with the Orchestra is more overtly fictional than his two other major books (the other being Mémoires), but the stories recounted are all the funnier due to the ring of truth as many of the 25 highly inventive tales were most probably based on factual incidents.
In January, Fine Music returns a favourite orchestral domain to our broadcasting. Evenings with the Orchestra was named after his book but was intended as a tribute to Berlioz as a conductor and orchestrator. The programming domain was first introduced in 2001 and was broadcast weekly for 13 years. Now, after a break of three years, the Programming Committee is bringing back this popular program. Unlike the satire in Berlioz’ book, there won’t be mediocre orchestras and soloists performing poorly but a wide variety of superb soloists, orchestras and conductors who will not disappoint.
Enjoy great orchestral concerts in Evenings with the Orchestra weekly on Fridays at 8pm.
This article appeared in the January issue of Fine Music Magazine. Read the full magazine online here.