Originally posted by sonhouse
What is the back story of this Herold? I am listening right now.
Paganini had bougth a viola, a STradivarius and trusted no one but Berlioz to do justice to a solo viola work. Paganini was thnking coerto, not viola obbligato, got ticked off and refused to play it. The work is based n the Lord Byron poem " Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Harold disillusioned with a life of pleasure travels. Some elements are autobiographical and refelct the weariness of a youth who's lived through wars and refelcts Byron's youtful travel through Portugal and the Mediterranean. Byron hated the poem, but Berlioz loved it. It is in effect Berlioz' 2nd symphiny and very diferent from "symphonie fantastique". It was at a performance of the latter work that Berlioz was stopped by a creature, long haired, wild eyed, hanuted by genius. It was Paganini. Paganini's problem was he never actually usd the word "concerto". The Life of Harold befis the melancholy work. Berlioz knew Italy intimately having spent time there after wining the coveted "prix Du Rome". In this marvellous work lies the germinal idea of the "idee fixe", which later leads to Liszt and the tone poem and ultimately Wagner and the leitmotiff. In Harold in Italy the viola personifies Harold. When Paganini hears it performed and sends Berlioz mmoney he included a letter beginning. "Beethoven being dead only Berlioz can make him live again..."
If you fall in love with Berlioz, and you truly might, also try out his Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale. Although not his best work the orchestration is so grandiose, yet subdued in an ethereally funereal manner it is haunting and almost makes you want to die to have it played at your funeral! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98BAg1GSP7U&feature=more_related
Hope I answered the question. It is a sublime work, this Harold!