Prélude to Les Troyens á Carthage (1858)
Hector Berlioz was a French composer and celebrated conductor best known for his monumental compositions and novel orchestration. He eschewed the medical career planned by his parents and bucked the trends set by other composers. As well as his best known work, the semi-autobiographical Symphonie Fantastique, Berlioz wrote numerous orchestral and choral works and three operas.
Named after the Trojan hero Hector, Berlioz was immersed in Virgil’s poetry since childhood. The culmination of his career is the opera Les Troyens (The Trojans). Evoking the siege of Troy by the Greeks and the subsequent escape of the survivors to Carthage, it spans five acts and as many hours. The last three acts preceded by today’s Prelude are often performed alone. The Prelude evokes effectively the voyage to Carthage across occasionally stormy seas. Note that the first clarinet is replaced by a bass clarinet, typical of Berlioz’s idiosyncrasies.
Performed: June 2022