Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra mark 150 years since the death of Hector Berlioz with his tempestuous oratorio, La damnation de Faust.
La damnation de Faust is a work born of the composer’s obsession with Goethe’s legendary tale. Once a righteous scholar, Faust allows himself to be corrupted by the devil, and drags the innocent around him into desperation and death. It’s a fable that defies definition – both a tragedy and dark comedy, with a central character both wise and despicable, and a play and epic poem in one.
Sir Simon Rattle says: 'This is a tribute to the Orchestra, and a tribute to Colin Davis. All of my generation learnt our Berlioz from Colin and the LSO. I've grown up with this music, and as a weird kid in the music library where my sister worked, the Berlioz Treatise on Instrumentation was one of my bibles.
We tend to forget how early Faust was started, Beethoven had just died when he made the first sketches, and the originality is still completely stunning to this day. The movement where Mephistopheles sings and the strings sound like a gigantic guitar, it's a sound such as no one else had even dreamt of making at that moment, and almost every other page there's a sound like that! You think, where does this come from? How did he even come across the idea that the orchestra could do that? It's the invention of the cinema. I think it was waiting for that. It's everything.
He wasn't a great man for categories, he was just expressing what he needed to express. Bless him for that freedom.'
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Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust, Op. 24
Karen Cargill (mezzo-soprano), Bryan Hymel (tenor), Christopher Purves (baritone), Gábor Bretz (bass)
London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Guildhall School Singers, Tiffin Children's Chorus, Tiffin Girls' Choir, Tiffin Boys' Choir, Sir Simon Rattle