HECTOR BERLIOZ: Symphonie fantastique, op. 14
Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi
Very little music condenses so much desire and passion, and also projects so many visions on to the canvas of our imagination, as Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, one of the greatest masterpieces of the early Romantic era. Not every conductor is capable of fully conveying the extremes of this composition, but Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi, an old favourite of Hungarian audiences and the winner of Hungarian Television’s First International Conducting Competition, certainly is. This concert promises a unique work, and a unique performance.
Hector Berlioz (1803–1869) was seven or eight years older than the members of the great Romantic generation – who were born around 1810-11 – so it is understandable that the most famous piece of his career, the Symphonie fantastique (1830), was composed when Schumann, Chopin and Liszt were still writing their early works. This symphony is one of the very first works of authentic programme music, and has a powerful desire to paint pictures and moods. Reveries – Passions, A Ball, Scene in the Fields, March to the Scaffold, Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath – the titles of the movements reveal the variable moods and imaginative modes of expression in the music, and some parts are thought to have been created while Berlioz was high on opium. Inspiration for the work’s strained emotions and passions came from the composer’s stormy love affair (which would later lead to marriage, before ending in divorce) with the English actress Harriet Smithson. Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi was born in Iwaki in 1940. His work became widely known in Hungary after he won a prestigious Budapest music competition in 1974. After the death of János Ferencsik, Kobayashi was the principal conductor of the Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Today, he is conductor laureate of the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra. He is also principal conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra.