Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
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.
They begin by exploring, 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.