Daniel Harding, conductor
Home Match II
“I saw love created at the speed of a thought, burning like lava, imperious, irresistible, powerful and pure and beauteous like an angel’s smile; I witnessed those raging scenes of revenge, those ardent embraces, those desperate struggles of love and of death. It was too much and as early as the third act, breathing laboriously and suffering as if an iron hand had seized my heart, I said to myself with full conviction: ‘Alas! I am lost!’” This is how Hector Berlioz described his experience of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in his memoirs after seeing a performance by an English theatre company in Paris. And that was not all. “I had just experienced Shakespeare and shortly afterwards, I saw the mighty Beethoven arise at a different point of the horizon. I was almost as overcome as after seeing Shakespeare. He opened up a new world in music to me, just like the poet had unveiled a new universe in poetry.”
Twelve years were to pass before Hector Berlioz was able to sublimate his agitation into a composition – “Roméo et Juliette”, a full-length “dramatic symphony”. This form has never otherwise existed, neither before nor after. Sometimes the music resembles the choric recitative of an old passion, sometimes a lied , at others an opera in the conversational style, or a veritable duel of opera choirs. Only one role is actually embodied by a singer – and not one of the protagonists, but rather that of the go-between, Father Lorenzo, who is on the lovers’ side. Most of the events occur in the music alone, symphonically in all types of movement that the genre provides. This complete work of art appeals to all forms of perception: the concrete, which is dominated by the word, and the abstract, as demanded by music. Only the most concrete of all perceptions, the visual, is left to the imagination by the composer.