Leonard Slatkin / Orchestre National de Lyon

Berlioz: Harold en Italie

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Not quite a viola concerto and not just a symphony with an obbligato viola part, Hector Berlioz's Harold en Italie -- based on Lord Byron's poem, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, and events from the composer's own sojourn in Italy for the Prix de Rome -- is a fascinating hybrid that embraces both forms and even anticipates the Lisztian tone poem. This performance by violist Lise Berthaud and the Orchestre National de Lyon, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, shows that they are fully conscious of the work's peculiar nature, so a degree of flexibility is observed, noticeably in the varied treatment of the viola. At times playing as a prominent soloist, at others merely providing filigree for color, Berthaud handles both sides of her part with grace and makes her presence felt, even when the viola's dynamics are extremely soft. Slatkin leads the orchestra with energy and humor, making sure that the picturesque aspects of the piece are vividly conveyed. For filler, two of Berlioz's most vibrant overtures are included, Roman Carnival and Benvenuto Cellini, along with the Rêverie et caprice for violin and orchestra, featuring Giovanni Radivo as soloist. This program is sure to please Berlioz aficionados, and fans of Berthaud should definitely take note of her appearance here.

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