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Episode 1

Duration:
1 hour
First broadcast:
Monday 29 December 2008

Donald Macleod explores the music of Hector Berlioz in conversation with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, in this Composer of the Week 'special' recorded at the celebrated conductor's Dorset farm. For Gardiner, Berlioz is perhaps the greatest of French composers, and he speaks with a lifetime's experience of studying and performing this remarkable music.
Today's programme focuses on a single work, the Messe solennelle, which Berlioz composed at the tender age of 21. Long thought lost - the composer incinerated the parts after only two performances - the score turned up in 1992 in an oak chest in an Antwerp organ loft, where it had lain unnoticed for over a century, the accidental discovery of a retired music teacher called Frans Moors, who had been hunting for a copy of Mozart's Coronation Mass.
Despite Berlioz's evidently low opinion of it, the Messe solennelle is a remarkable and still relatively little-known work, that bears many hallmarks of the composer's mature style. Indeed, listeners familiar with the rest of his oeuvre will recognise plenty of passages that Berlioz salvaged from this early work and transplanted into later ones.

Music Played

2 items
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
  • Image for Hector Berlioz

    Hector Berlioz Extract from 'Tuba mirum' section of Grande Messe des Morts [1837]

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra Performer: Colin Davis (cond)

    Philips 475 7765,

  • Image for Hector Berlioz

    Hector Berlioz Messe solennelle [1824-5] All parts excluding the Offertory motet

    Performer: Donna Brown (sop) Performer: Jean-Luc Viala (ten) Performer: Gilles Cachemaille (bass-bar) Performer: Monteverdi Choir Performer: Monteverdi Orchestre Performer: Révolutionnaire et Romantique Performer: John Eliot Gardiner (cond)

    Philips 442 137-2,

  • Listen to an extended interview

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    An extended version of Donald Macleod's conversation with Sir John Eliot Gardiner about Berlioz's Messe solennelle.

    A shorter version of this interview is included in the broadcast of Monday's edition of Composer of the Week.

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