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 2024

    This page presents reviews of the performances that took place in 2024. We would like to express our gratitude to the authors for their invaluable contributions.

Copyright notice: The reviews published on this page are the intellectual property of the respective contributors and are subject to UK and International Copyright Laws. Their use/reproduction without the authors’ explicit permission is illegal.

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Edward Gardner as passionate conductor of Berlioz BÉATRICE ET BÉNÉDICT PEU OU PROU

Edward Gardner as passionate conductor of Berlioz

Anja-Rosa Thöming

    As the future music director of the Norwegian National Opera, conductor Edward Gardner introduced himself with this work in Oslo (30 March and 1 April 2023); now a live recording of a performance (4 February 2023) of Hector Berlioz’ “La damnation de Faust” with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) has been released. Berlioz’s ingenious and wild musicalisation of the Faust legend is sung by three choirs and masterful soloists, Karen Cargill (Marguerite), John Irvin (Faust) and Christopher Purves (Méphistophélès). The nightmarish plot takes shape through beguilingly beautiful and disturbing music. Faust’s grasp of nature and love’s ardour, Marguerite’s dream-lost Thule ballad “in the Gothic style”, Mephisto’s indulgence in black magic, the witty choral movements of the drunkards, gnomes and demons — all this unfolds with stroboscopic intensity. Gardner’s mastery is evident in the clear modelling of the orchestral sound in the “Invocation à la nature”, or when he slows down the tempo in the mighty hellish ride and pauses for a moment in deceptive calm. Curiously delicate, the first violins accompany Faust on his search for happiness in Marguerite’s room.

    Like many British conductors Gardner appears to be a prolific connoisseur of Berlioz’ works, which he has been performing for many years now, as a search of his name on this site’s Archive of concerts reveals. In 2018 he conducted the “Grande messe des morts” at the Bergen International Festival, Norway (23 and 24 May), in a most gripping way. The four different brass bands for the Dies Irae, Rex Tremendae and Lacrimosa form part of the prominent Norwegian Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag who gave the performance an extra thrill. Four choirs were singing together with extraordinary beauty. For me a moment of special insight arrived when the choirs began with “Hosanna in excelsis” in the “Sanctus” — like human beings singing a happy tune with warmth and lightness and very legato, exactly like Berlioz wished for in the score (“Chantez sans violence et en tenant bien les notes, au lieu de les accentuer isolément”). In perfect contrast Bror Magnus Tødenes and the ladies’ voices formed an exquisit ethereal “Sanctus”. The audio CD has been released at Chandos (CHSA 5219) and the whole performance is available on Vimeo. On the same platform, Gardner gives a short introduction in which he confesses to be fascinated by the strangeness of the work.

Anja-Rosa Thöming

The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997; Reviews of live performances page created in 1999; completely reorganised on 25 December 2008.

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