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Berlioz Music Scores

Overture: Rob Roy (H 54)

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    See also Berlioz and his music: self-borrowings

    One hesitates to include the overture Rob Roy in a collection of Berlioz’s orchestral scores: the work was discarded by Berlioz and never published by him. The Memoirs contain only one brief and dismissive reference to it (chapter 39), where he lists it as one of the few works which he composed while in Rome in 1831 during the time he spent as winner of the Prix de Rome of 1830. He describes it as ‘long and diffuse’; it was ‘performed a year later in Paris [actually on 14 April 1833 at the Conservatoire], very badly received by the public, and I burned it the same day after returning from the concert’. A copy of the score, sent to the Institute, has nevertheless survived. Berlioz’s verdict must be respected: the work does indeed lack a convincing structure and is uncharacteristically repetitive. But nothing by Berlioz can fail to be interesting, and Rob Roy contains some fine music, part of which was re-used by the composer in the first movement of his symphony Harold in Italy. Its interest thus lies in part in allowing a glimpse into Berlioz’s workshop and making possible comparisons between different versions of the same material. Compare in particular bars 275-321 of Rob Roy with bars 38-94 of Harold in Italy, and the different treatment of the second subject of the overture (bars 170-210, 472-90) with that of the symphony’s first movement (bars 167-92, 265-76, 335-57, 448-71). There are also differences in orchestration: the cor anglais, prominent in the overture, is replaced by a solo viola in the symphony’s first movement, and the harp, active through much of the overture, is restricted in the symphony to the slow introduction.

    The score does not include any metronome marks. In this version the main allegro non troppo has been set at dotted crotchet = 104 (the tempo of the first movement of Harold in Italy),  the larghetto espressivo assai at quaver = 80 (slightly faster than the opening adagio of Harold in Italy which is marked quaver = 76), and the concluding presto starts at dotted crotchet = 152 and speeds up later.

    Overture: Rob Roy (duration 14'9")
    — Score in large format
    (file created on 3.08.2001)

© Michel Austin for all scores and text on this page.

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