Hector Berlioz was not the first romantic, but he was the creator, who broke the schematic solutions of classical forms and redefined the nature of a symphony orchestra. Apart from composing, Hector Berlioz was the author of numerous essays, in which he focused on the various musical issues. He is also well known as the author of important idea of orchestration and Grand traité d’instrumentation et d’orchestration moderns which was in fact both the manual for instrumentation and probably most comprehensive textbook on possibilities of musical instruments. And this was fundamental work for composers of late Romanticism and twentieth-century modernity. Among many composers who studied Berlioz’s treaty were Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. From academic point of view, as much significant as this treatise was Symphonie fantastique – the perfect example of romantic program symphony.
This symphony was one of the cornerstones of Romantic music. Being the model realization of program symphony, it is also an example of excellent symphonic structure, which did not follow the plan drawn up by the Viennese classics. Instead of it was based more on the narrative potential of the expanded symphony orchestra. Especially impressive is the cast of brass section (4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 cornets, 3 trombones, ophiocleide and serpent – these two in modern scores had been substituted by 2 tubas) and enlarged group of percussion instruments. The symphony was premiered in December 1830 in Paris Conservatoire but after many performances in the years 1831-1845 Berlioz made many revisions trying to build perfect work. In 1931 Hector Berlioz composed sequel of this work Lélio, ou le retour à la vie Op. 14b for speaking actor and orchestra.
|Jan Krenz – Berlioz – Symphonie fantastique (1983)|
There are plenty of great performances and editions giving Symphonie fantastique preferential position in romantic music catalogue. Their diversity testifies to the universality of presented drama and the adequacy of the means of expression. Interesting rendition of Symphonie fantastique was recorded by Jan Krenz with Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra and published by Polish label Polskie Nagrania – Muza in 1983. This performance is rather deep and bitter than nice or easy, sometimes it’s even raw with modern kind of romantic pathos. Jan Krenz, widely known in Poland and abroad conductor and contemporary composer, led his own, intensively emotional and personal interpretation of this great symphony. It is steering in direction of increasing dramatic contrasts between positive emotions and moments of rough visions and despair.
Krenz recording has pure musical meaning. But the album is witnessing Polish history in its own way. Recorded in Warsaw May 24 to 27, 1980, three months before Solidarity revolution, has been published three years later after one year of freedom, the state of war and enforced stabilization thereafter. Deeply emotional recording gives image of hope and perplexity that tore the Poles in 1980, but 1983 edition’s cover shows only a bouquet of roses, like publisher have the intention to reduce unstable emotions and preserve them on the level of individual exaltation and ritual practices.