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Musical enchantment from Mendelssohn’s ethereal music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream sets the scene for Saint-Saëns’ captivating Cello Concerto No. 1.
It is a work with special memories for soloist, Jian Wang, who played it for his orchestral debut with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra at just 11 years old.
Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, one of the most recent big-name violinists to take up the baton, unleashes a frenzy of emotions in Berlioz’s fantastical symphony which Leonard Bernstein described as “the first psychedelic musical trip.”
It’s the story of a musician (Berlioz himself) and his unrequited passion for a woman (the Shakespearean actress Harriet Smithson), the woman of his dreams. Alongside the complex spectrum of emotions explored – passion, obsession, hallucination, depression and suicidal ideation – Berlioz weaves his idée fixe, his musical motif that represents the hero’s beloved, introduced by the violins and flutes. It is a motif that haunts him and the whole symphony, intensifying through subsequent movements.
Symphonie fantastique is full of theatrical effects that were ahead of its time. Listen out for our hero being decapitated with a massive chord in the March to the Scaffold, and the ‘beloved’, distorted and grotesque, dancing in the Witches Sabbath.