The Times, 8 February 1848
Berlioz first visited London between November 1847 and July 1848, where he only gave two concerts. His first concert on this visit took place on 7 February 1848 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and consisted entirely of his own compositions. This page reproduces a review of that concert published in The Times the next day. A review of his second concert is reproduced on a separate page.
We have transcribed the text from a print-out of an image of the review in a database accessed at the British Library in London (Colindale site); the syntax and spelling of the original have been preserved, but we have corrected obvious typesetting errors.
See also another review of the same concert published in the Illustrated London News on 12 February.
The continental celebrity of M. Hector Berlioz made his first concert in England, which took place last night in Drury-lane Theatre, an event of considerable interest in the musical world, and the house was well filled on the occasion. The orchestra, on an immense scale, was constructed upon the stage, with rows of benches for the choristers at the base. Upon his entrance M. Berlioz was received with unanimous applause, and the performances immediately began with a characteristic overture, entitled Le Carnaval de Rome, in which the composer has laboured successfully to illustrate the salient features of that celebrated Italian festival. The instrumentation of this work, which comprises a short introduction, a serenade, and a lengthened tarantella, is wonderfully brilliant, and although the form is not after established models, it is difficult not to be excited by its impetuous and exhilarating character. The overture was followed by a vocal romance, called “The Young Shepherd,” an air of no great rhythmical pretensions, but redeemed by a pretty accompaniment in the barcarole style; it was gracefully sung by Miss Miran. The celebrated symphony of Harold followed—the work that won the admiration of Paganini, who presented the composer with 20,000 francs, enclosed in a note which contained these words “Tu seras Beethoven,” as a testimony of the pleasure he had derived from its performance. This symphony is divided into four parts, and attempts to embody various scenes in the pilgrimage of Harold, and the impressions produced on his mind by each of them. The viola obligato which runs through the whole work (very finely executed by Mr. Hill) is intended by M. Berlioz to represent the individuality of the hero of his musical poem, like the principle figure in a picture. The symphony is a work of too large design and of pretensions too much beyond the ordinary limits, to be analyzed in the few lines our crowded columns will permit of our devoting to the notice of this concert; we must, therefore, be content to say that it was magnificently executed by the band, listened to with great attention, and honoured with frequent and warm manifestations of approval. The second part of the concert was devoted to the first two acts of the lyrical drama of Faust, one of the most recent and one of the most elaborate productions of the composer. The principal adventures of Faust are illustrated in this work, of which we have only space to say that it offers some of the most curious and original examples of instrumentation that can be found in the whole range of modern art movements—a Hungarian march and some music descriptive of the charms by which the sylphs and gnomes cause Faust to sleep and dream of Margaret—were loudly encored. The whole of this immensely difficult work was executed with the nicest accuracy, the solo singing of Messrs. Reeves and Weiss dividing the honours with the efforts of the band and chorus. The third part began with a florid cavatina from M. Berlioz’s only opera, Benvenuto Celini, which was brilliantly vocalized by Madame Dorus Gras. The chorus of souls in purgatory, from the Requiem—a lugubrious movement of fugal characters—followed, and the whole concluded with the finale for orchestra and chorus, from the Triumphal Symphony, which was written by order of the French Government on the celebrated occasion of the removal of the “victims of July.” Both of these were admirably performed. M. Berlioz was again loudly applauded at the conclusion of the concert, and may be congratulated on having made a decidedly favourable impression on this his first appeal to the suffrages of an English audience. On a future occasion we hope to be enabled to afford him that critical attention which our limits forbid us at present, but which is due to his original talent and to the unusually vast pretensions developed in his works.
The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997; this page created on 1 May 2010.
© Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin. All rights of reproduction reserved.
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