Concert Review

Berlioz Romeo et Juliette LSO & Chorus, Sir Colin Davis, with soloists; Barbican Centre, 11 January 2000.

Sir Colin Davis's current Berlioz Odyssey continues until December, and is sure to be remembered as one of the most important series of the LSO's 1999-2000 season. Romeo & Juliet is an extraordinary conception, fired by the composer's disastrous infatuation with the actress Harriet Smithson. It was performed without an interval, with fiery orchestral playing and a lusty, large chorus representing the warring Montague and Capulet extended families, who carry the brunt of the text. The young lovers do not sing at all. Three of the most important movements, including their love scene, are for orchestra alone, and the largest solo part is, paradoxically, for Friar Lawrence. From a seat that was a little too close, Orlin Anastassov, a stalwart in this series to date, sounded too unremittingly intense, hectoring the bloodthirsty enemies to an eventual sudden and uneasy truce.

The other soloists had small parts but made the most of them. Daniela Barcellona (mezzo) has a dark, rich voice and celebrated first love between the unheard protagonists in the drama, whose love scene is purely orchestral. Kenneth Tarver (tenor) was mercurial in his anticipation of the famous Queen Mab orchestral scherzo, his light, mobile tenor a brief joy and welcome respite from the predominantly serious matters portrayed. This is a series to stay with!

Background information and booking of tickets for future Berlioz Odyssey concerts on the LSO website These performances of Romeo & Juliet were recorded for release on the new LSO Live label. Meanwhile, amongst the 11 CD versions of this fascinating and problematic work in the catalogue, there are two conducted by Colin Davis:- Phillips 442 134-2PH2  Amazon US with the VPO (1993) and Phillips 456 143-2PB6  with the LSO (1968/97).Crotchet UK 6CD £25.49 [+VAT in the UK]

Peter Grahame Woolf


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