"Shakespeare, falling on me unexpectedly, struck me. His lightning, opening the sky of art with a sublime crash, illuminated the most distant depths for me. I recognized true greatness, true beauty, true dramatic truth. " For Berlioz, the works of Shakespeare inspired love at first sight! The Tempest, King Lear, and Hamlet would transform in his hands into some of the most beautiful scores he ever wrote. Among them, Berlioz’s symphonic interpretation of Romeo and Juliet has pride of place.
It is Paganini who we have to thank for this chef-d’œuvre of choirs, recitatives, and solo airs. One evening in December 1838 after having heard Harold en Italie in performance for the first time, the great Italian virtuoso fell to his knees before the composer and kissed his hand, carried away with enthusiasm. The next day, he wrote Berlioz a letter, proclaiming him the inheritor of Beethoven, and sending with it a check for 20,000 francs! No longer needing to work to earn a living, Berlioz dedicated himself to composing the masterpiece he wanted, “a grandiose and passionate work filled with fantasy”. In this performance, Valery Gergiev leads the London Symphony Orchestra joined by soloists Olga Borodina, Kenneth Tarver, and Evgeny Nikitin.