In the 2018-19 season the Vienna Symphony focuses extensively on the great French composer Hector Berlioz. For the first time in Austria, nearly all of the composer's important works will be performed.
18 concerts within one season in Vienna, Graz and Bregenz
Through this ambitious project the orchestra seeks to bring Berlioz's creativity as the pre-eminent representative of French Romanticism - still under-appreciated in this country - to a wider audience. Many of the most important Berlioz interpreters of our time are featured: Chief Conductor Philippe Jordan leads four of the seven blocks of concerts. Also conducting are Bertrand de Billy, François-Xavier Roth and Stéphane Denève, along with world-famous soloists including Bryn Terfel, Thomas Hampson, Kate Aldrich and Bryan Hymel.
Few Austrian orchestras have made more of a case for the work of Berlioz than the Vienna Symphony: more than 300 performances of his works have taken place over the course of the orchestra's history. Never before, however, has the orchestra commited itself to the work of the great French composer in such a concentration of programmes and over such a concentrated period.
With his Symphonie fantastique, premiered in 1830, Berlioz (1803-1869) is regarded, along with Liszt, as one the fathers of 'Programme Music' and of the great symphonic revival of the 19th century. Moreover, as the author of the first major treatise on orchestration, Berlioz laid down the important practical foundations for the development of the modern orchestra.
"Berlioz, for me, is without question one of the most fascinating personalities in the history of music. Being at the centre of a Romantic circle around Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac and Eugène Delacroix, he had a wide range of interests, and as a composer was self-taught - and one can hear this. He sounds like no other composer,' declares Philippe Jordan. "He is a master of tonal colour, but almost more exciting is how everything is in a permanent state of flux. He never repeats anything; every musical idea is constantly evolving. And one always feels this great, unbridled Romantic impulse under the surface - the longing, the urging, the searching - that again and again suddenly bursts forth. The large orchestra and the high technical and interpretive challenges mean that many of his works are not regularly performed. This project will really require us to give our all."
A total of eight works will be performed in the Vienna Symphony's Berlioz Festival in 2018-19. Alongside pieces firmly anchored in the repertoire - e.g. Le Damnation de Faust or Harold en Italie - absolute rarities such as the lyrical melodrama Lélio ou Le retour à la vie and the song cycle Les Nuits d'été can be heard.
"The exceptional thing for me about this project," explains Intendant Johannes Neubert, "apart from the breadth of it, is its extraordinarily high artistic level. This was only possible because all the venues have really pulled together - to enrich the musical life of Vienna. I truly hope that audiences will seize the opportunity to hear these unparalleled works performed by great musicians in a concentration of concerts that is rare even for Vienna."