A weekend dedicated to the life and works of Hector Berlioz in the 150th anniversary year of his death

Presented by BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Orchestras and Choirs

To mark the 150th anniversary of the death of composer Hector Berlioz, BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Orchestras and Choirs will be dedicating a long weekend to the composer from the 15-17 February 2019.

Entitled, ‘Berlioz – The Ultimate Romantic’, this celebratory weekend of live and specially recorded concerts involving all of the BBC Orchestras and Choirs, as well as the Ulster Orchestra, marks the anniversary of the remarkable composer, writer, and master-orchestrator Hector Berlioz, who died on 8 March 1869.

This is a composer whose colourful life and innovative music encapsulates the Romantic age. Berlioz was an innovator who struggled to be appreciated by the musical establishment during his lifetime. His passionate and complicated love story with the actress Harriet Smithson inspired his ambitious Symphonie fantastique – which is the culmination of the weekend.

Through presented concerts and other programming, BBC Radio 3 will explore how we might better appreciate how his infectious appetite for romance and highly-contested fallible human characteristics encouraged him to incorporate so much of his personal life story into his music.

This commemorative weekend will offer a unique vehicle to showcase the outstanding work of the BBC’s nationwide Orchestras and Choirs. Based in Cardiff, Glasgow, London and Salford, respectively the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Singers and the BBC Philharmonic, each play a unique role in British cultural life reaching an audience of millions year-on-year with their wide-ranging and distinctive programming.

This festival will go further than ever before in providing an overarching digital offer from all of the BBC Orchestras and Choirs to ensure increased access for audiences to engage with the Berlioz 150 commemorations. A central online hub will pool content from live and pre-recorded broadcast concerts. Live streams of BBC NOW’s L’Enfance du Christ and BBC SSO’s concert featuring Waverley Overture, Death of Cléopâtre, and Lélio, will be available across the bespoke BBC Berlioz Weekend portal, YouTube, Facebook and then available to watch again on BBC iPlayer. And a broad mix of video clips and interviews from the weekend’s contributors, including actor Simon Paisley-Day, will give a further insight into Berlioz’s life and work.

Speaking ahead of the Berlioz Weekend, Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Orchestras and Choirs, says: “Berlioz was not only a master orchestrator, but a fascinating individual with an explosive personal life. I can think of no better way to commemorate the work and influence of this extraordinary composer on BBC Radio 3 than through the combined forces of the marvellous BBC Orchestras and Choirs and the Ulster Orchestra, who together will bring Berlioz’s great music into the homes of audiences across the country.”

Berlioz expanded the colour palate in a composer’s toolbox. Examinations of his skills as a master orchestrator will include performances of revolutionary works such as Symphonie fantastique, and Harold en Italie as this Berlioz Weekend explores the composer’s unprecedented sense of scale and purpose in his orchestral ambitions. This will be supported by a selection of music by those composers who influenced his life and works, and those who took inspiration from Berlioz’s use of the orchestra.

Elsewhere in the weekend, actor Samuel West takes on the role of the ‘Artist’ in another autobiographical work, Lélio, and Simon Paisley-Day reads from Berlioz’s vivid and witty memoirs at Alexandra Palace with the BBC Concert Orchestra. There will be a focus on his rarely-heard works and choral music, as well a journey into his skills for story-telling through his operas and large-scale choral works, such as Béatrice et Bénédict and L’Enfance du Christ.

Stepping away from the concert platform, other programming will take a deeper look at the much-debated myths behind the man and his music. Music Matters will examine how we might understand this archetypally Romantic composer in a 21st century context.

All programming for ‘Berlioz – The Ultimate Romantic’ will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and will be available for 30 days on BBC Sounds. Ticketing information about the live events is available on the respective orchestra’s and choirs’ websites.


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