Debussy’s seductive painting of a languid, sun-drenched Sicilian afternoon marked a turning point in musical history, with its tenuous grasp of tonality and harmony. It weaves a tantalising veil of hypnotic colours and textures. Mussorgsky’s musical wander through a fictitious gallery of works is a beautifully curated series of miniatures, some intimate, others grotesque, that imaginatively capture the essence of a character, mood or scene, further imbued with orchestral colour by Ravel’s genius for scoring. Picturing outdoor scenes drawn from the most vivid experiences of Berlioz’ Italian stay, Harold in Italy is full of youthful vitality, tinged with that appealing romantic sensibility that Berlioz borrowed so poetically from literature. Although using a solo viola it remains a symphony as the traditional balance between soloist and orchestra is shifted; the soloist is rarely the protagonist, more often a bystander.

Works and composers

Debussy Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune
Berlioz Harold In Italy
Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

Supported by

Gillian Emerson