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Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique Return to Carnegie Hall and Other U.S. Venues for “Berlioz Series 2018,” with Simon Callow as Narrator in Little-Known Lélio (Oct 10-15)
Source: 21c

A life-long devotee of the music of Hector Berlioz, Sir John Eliot Gardiner anticipates next year’s 150th anniversary of the composer’s death with the Berlioz Series 2018, a transatlantic tour with his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique and soloists including beloved British actor Simon Callow. Bookended by European dates at London’s BBC Proms, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, the Paris Philharmonie, the Palace of Versailles, and more, the series sees the orchestra and Gardiner – the winner of more Gramophone Awards than any other living artist – return to the States for concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall and other venues this fall (Oct 10-15).
In Chapel Hill, NC (Oct 10) and at Carnegie Hall (Oct 14), Gardiner leads performances of Harold en Italie, La mort de Cléopâtre, excerpts from Les Troyens, and the Corsaireoverture, with solo appearances from mezzo-soprano Lucile Richardot and violist Antoine Tamestit. In Ann Arbor, MI (Oct 12) and in a second performance at Carnegie Hall (Oct 15), he and the orchestra offer a pairing of the celebrated Symphonie fantastique and Lélio, the far rarer work that Berlioz considered its sequel, featuring tenor Michael Spyres, bass-baritone Ashley Riches, National Youth Choir of Scotland, and Simon Callow as the narrator.
As the founder and artistic director of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique (ORR), as well as of the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, Gardiner is a pioneer of historically informed performance. Although he is best-known as a key figure in the early music revival, Berlioz’s music has also long loomed large in his career. The Guardian observes:
“Gardiner’s passion for Berlioz is as deep-rooted as his dedication to Bach, or to Monteverdi. … For some four decades, Gardiner has applied the same eagle-eyed scrutiny to Berlioz as to those other composers with whom he is more readily associated, scouring autograph manuscripts and reminding us of works forgotten or misunderstood.”
In an insightful note about the upcoming Berlioz Series 2018, the conductor explains:
“What I value most of all about Berlioz is his romantic chutzpah – his astonishing daring as a composer, his phenomenal ear for orchestral rhythms and sonorities. I believe that his instrumental colours register most graphically when played on the original instrument types he assembled when painting these revolutionary orchestral canvasses. To recover this vivid palette of instrumental colours has been the motivating force behind our Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique for the past three decades.”
See below to read Gardiner’s note in full.
Over the years, he and the ORR have demonstrated their extraordinary commitment to the French Romantic composer’s stage and orchestral works in numerous key recordings that include the world premiere recording of his long-lost Messe Solennelle and a definitive DVD recording of his Les Troyens that Gramophone magazine hailed as a “superb authentic-instrument performance … to equal Sir Colin Davis’s pioneering original.” The review concluded: “Greatly as I revere both Davis CD versions …, for anyone who loves Les Troyens, this is just as revelatory, just as essential.
Their landmark live performances of Berlioz’s music include an account of The Damnation of Faust at London’s BBC Proms last summer, where – as in the upcoming performance of Lélio at Carnegie Hall – they were joined by the National Youth Choir of Scotland and soloists Spyres and Riches. The performance scored five-star reviews in The Guardian, The Times, and the Independent, which marveled:
“Gardiner’s instinct for Berlioz has been honed over many years, and the result here was a performance brimming with detail and colour. With the orchestra (his own Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique) centre-stage, every passing instrumental flicker and aside was amplified – a sardonic bassoon here, a guffawing ophicleide there – playing dramatically off a cast which was the stuff of dreams. … You had exactly the kind of overflowing evening this music was made for, layering sensation on sensation. When it comes to guilty delights, Mephistopheles might just have met his match in Berlioz and Gardiner.”
Likewise, when Gardiner led the ORR in Berlioz at the Edinburgh Festival three years ago, The Scotsman’s David Kettle awarded their performance another five-star review, praising their “electrifying account” of the Symphonie fantastique and “brilliantly theatrical account” of Lélio, before concluding: “You couldn’t have asked for more – a thoroughly entertaining, provocative evening that also shone new light on Berlioz’s unhinged genius.”
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