The Mighty Berlioz

Today’s the day.  I’ve been waiting for this for a LONG time.  I did have a little kinda sorta second-hand brush with this a few years ago with the Highlands Wind Symphony.  I can’t count it for reals though.  So today it’s the real deal.  The genuine article.  From his pen direct to my baton…

I’m conducting my first original Hector Berlioz piece with an orchestra.  Namely, his ‘Marche Troyenne’ and the Highlands Chamber Orchestra.

With Berlioz as a whole, I feel like it’s going to be a life-long journey.  Conducting increasingly complex works of his as my conducting career progresses and as my skill and technique mature.  I do have a bit of a hit list of works of his and in [mostly] no particular order:

  • Overture to Benvenuto Cellini (the first Berlioz I played in the Ottawa Youth Orchestra)
  • Hungarian March from Damnation of Faust (the second Berlioz in OYO)
  • Roméo et Juliette
  • Le Corsaire overture
  • Waverley overture
  • Les Francs-Juges overtures
  • Symphonie Fantastique
  • Te deum
  • Requiem (maybe this one should be last with its HUGE proportions)
  • Love duet between Dido and Aeneas from Les Troyens – ‘Nuit d’ivresse et d’extase infinie!’

So I’m starting with the Trojan March — not terribly difficult, or at least not insurmountable parts (notably, strings); the tuba part isn’t totally scary; there aren’t two tubas required; the tempo isn’t super nuts and in cut time; the rhythms aren’t full of syncopations.  And it can be pulled off with a smaller orchestra.  In other words, the Highlands Chamber Orchestra will do its magic with it.

It’s from Berlioz’ epic opera, Les Troyens.  Like – 4 CDs kind of epic.  Like – a performance starts at 5pm and, with various intermissions, it ends around 10pm.  It’s big and not often performed.  The Trojan March appears in various forms and orchestrations throughout the opera and represents the people of Troy and their leader Aeneas as they leave Troy, find Carthage (and Dido) and eventually leave there for Italy and Rome.

I do have a challenge with this:  how to not make this sound marchy and clunky.  I do love a challenge.

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