The Gluck Berlioz connection

Composers frequently find touchstones in earlier composers, but few seem to manifest as direct a lineage (or in some ways as surprising) as Hector Berlioz’ connection with the music Christoph Willibald Gluck, whom he venerated above all opera composers.

“There are two supreme gods in the art of music: Beethoven and Gluck. The former’s realm is that of infinite thought, the latter’s that of infinite passion; and though Beethoven is far above Gluck as a musician, there is so much of each in the other that these two Jupiters form a single god, and all we can do is to lose ourselves in admiration and respect for him.”

In his study and scholarship on the Gluck scores (already old-fashioned in Paris during Berlioz’s era),  a musical revolutionary composer found common cause with a master of classical equilibrium. Here is Gluck from Iphigenie en Tauride, Regine Crespin singing “Cette nuit … O toi qui prolongeas mes jours“) (Iphigenia always brought forth magic from him–he pretty much owns the doomed classical heroine fach.)

And then, from Berlioz’ The Trojans (as classical a theme as Gluck could have wished for), the duet for Dido and Aeneas that closes Act III. More doom, more beauty and radiance.) A performance with Susan Graham and Gregory Kunde.

“I assure you, dear sister, that the music in Les Troyens is something noble and elevated; it is also compelling and truthful, and if I am not much mistaken there are a number of novelties which will arrest the ears of musicians throughout Europe and perhaps make their hair stand on end. It seems to me that were Gluck to come back to life, he would say of me on hearing the work: “Here in truth is my son.” Hardly modest, you will say. But at least I am modest enough to admit to be lacking in modesty.”

Merry Christmas

In case you are overwhelmed by White Christmas and Jingle Bells just now, here’s The Shepherd’s Farewell from Hector Berlioz’The Childhood of Christ Shot 2015-12-25 at 11.12.39 AM


Merry Christmas, and may your hats be bigger than your holly!

Beautiful Music: Les Troyens

Screen Shot 2013-01-05 at 9.43.09 AMHector Berlioz’s epic opera, The Trojans, all five hours of it, is live from the Met today at noon (both on old fashioned radio and in the HD broadcast in movie theaters). Berlioz fanatics will hang on every note, particularly those caressed by Susan Graham who is a wonderful Dido. But even if you are looking to spend your Saturday afternoon doing something other than blissing out on the apex of French romantic neo-classicism, I’d still recommend Acts III and IV, (starting at 2:15 or so EST according to the not always reliable Opera News.) Act IV ends with the most beautiful duet HB ever wrote, and that, mesdames, mesdemoiselles et messieurs, is saying something.

A taste below:  Verrett and Gedda in the duet (superb singers, hurried along a bit by the conductor).

and Domingo and Troyanos, stars of the Met’s previous production.

  What on earth is Placido wearing on his feet? And sorry that the clip breaks off before the end…deprives you of Berlioz’s brilliant flash that ends the act.