Hector Berlioz the Libertarian

Joseph S. Diedrich

Hector Berlioz the Libertarian

About a week ago, a friend and fellow classical music aficionado posted the following on Facebook:

I’ve waited my whole life to come to realize, through some dawning revelation, why precisely I’m supposed to like the Symphonie Fantastique. Today, right now where I sit, I’m fully prepared to say what I’ve put off saying for as long as I can remember: the Symphonie Fantastique is wrongly named. Continue reading

RIP Colin Davis, 25 September 1927 – 14 April 2013

I never had the good fortune to see him in a live performance. Also, I have never been a fan of the English composers he did much to champion. However, we have lost one of the outstanding conductors of the past half century.

Here is his recording of the Berlioz Requiem. Something goes wrong with this in the Tuba Mirum – possibly a fault of the sound engineers when all four military bands come in to join an already vast orchestra and choir. Even so, it is the grandest and most moving performance of the work I have heard. No other performance I know comes close to it. I first heard it in in 1976 – indeed, I was carrying a recording of it when I was nearly killed in a road accident. It astonished me then. It still does. The hairs still prick up on the back of my neck when it reaches Te decet hymnus Deus in Sion at 4:15. Nor is it dismissive of the rest if I describe the Offertorium as astonishingly beautiful.

RIP, Colin Davis – our greatest loss of the year so far.

A Mind Blowing Performance

I stopped paying much attention to Beethoven in 1981, after having a quasi-religious experience while listening to Mozart’s Great Mass in C minor. I never stopped listening; I simply stopped listening properly. I now glory in his rediscovery. I bought the Hogwood/Lubin/AAM PC box set in 1990 out of  a sense of duty. It’s an astonishing achievement. Here is the 1st movement of No. 5 in Eb major. What I most like about this performance is the total abandonment of restraint within a set of broadly Mozartian assumptions.

For the Symphonies, though, Mrs Gabb has bought me the 1963 Karajan set. John Kersey recommends it; and, while she won’t let me remove the cellophane wrapping until Christmas Eve, and will then nag me about the state of my hearing whenever I play the disks, the YouTube previews sound very exciting.

Next year, I may give up on torturing my women with the flute, and take to the piano.