Berlioz, Hector


Berlioz, Hector

Rêverie et Caprice Op. 8 for violin and orchestra or piano (Piano Reduction/Solo)

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Berlioz, Hector

Rêverie et Caprice Op. 8 for violin and orchestra or piano (Piano Reduction/Solo)


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In March 1839 a distraught Hector Berlioz dashed off a quick note to Charles-Edmond Duponchel, the all-powerful director of the Paris Opéra: «Sir, I have the honor to inform you that I withdraw my opera Benvenuto. I am perfectly convinced that you will receive this news with pleasure. I have the honor to be, Sir, your devoted servant H. Berlioz.»

Berlioz was by no means mistaken in his appraisal of the situation: from the moment it went into rehearsal in May 1838 Benvenuto Cellini had encountered nothing but resistance from the musicians, singers, administrative personnel, and finally the great director himself, who was convinced that the work was little but a still-born experiment. After four performances the principal tenor quit altogether, having previously sung his part with a visible sneer as if the whole were a capital joke. The failure of Benvenuto Cellini was considered so absolute that the composer’s chances at the Opéra were ruined for the rest of his life. Berlioz, having poured his heart into the music, was disconsolate. Yet he, and a few knowledgeable musicians, realized that a masterpiece had passed unheralded and unrecognized. Today Duponchel’s summary verdict has been reversed.

One of the first items to be expunged from the score of Benvenuto Cellini in 1838 was an Act 1 cavatina, “Ah, que l’amour une fois dans le cœur,” which was replaced after the singer, Julie Dorus-Gras, had found it objectionable. Berlioz, however, had a different opinion of the piece’s merits, and when an opportunity arose in 1841 to mount an orchestral concert with his young Belgian friend, the virtuoso violinist Alexandre-Joseph Artôt (1815-1845), he turned to the original cavatina and rewrote it as a «romance» (in the sense of Beethoven’s opp. 40 and 50) for violin and orchestra. This new version was immediately issued in full score and piano reduction as Rêverie et caprice, op. 8, by Richault & Cie. in Paris (1841). A few months later, on 1 February 1842, Artôt and Berlioz gave the piece its première in Paris’s Salle Vivienne. Although not especially well-received at this first hearing, it quickly caught the attention of several leading virtuosos. The future head of the violin department at the Paris Conservatoire, Delphin Alard (1815-1888), played it with triumphant success at the Conservatoire in 1843. More importantly, it was given by the great Ferdinand David (1810-1873) that same year in Leipzig, at a concert with the Schumanns in attendance. Years later Berlioz recalled the event in his memoirs, at the same time singling out Leipzig’s famous orchestra for praise: «David agreed to play the violin solo that I wrote two years ago for Artôt, which has quite an elaborate orchestral part; he gave a masterly performance and was acclaimed by the whole audience.»
Oddly, despite its warm contemporary reception, Rêverie et caprice has not fared well at the hands of Berlioz’s biographers. Jacques Barzun, in 1950, called it «unimportant save as an indication that Berlioz could with little practice have turned his hand to ‘slick’ money-making stuff.» Hugh Macdonald, writing thirty years later, found no reason to reverse this verdict, objecting to its «impulsive changes of mood and speed,» which make it sound out of place in the concert hall and have kept it from finding many admirers. Yet the work’s publication history tells a different story. Richault reissued their full score in 1865, and another full score with parts was published of Costallato of Paris in 1880. In the early 1990s Breitkopf & Härtel issued yet another full score under the captivating title of Träumerei und Kaprice. Later editions of the piano reduction have been legion, beginning with pirated version of the Richault print by Pietro Mechetti (Vienna, 1841) and continuing with Augener (ed. E. Heine, 1900), Steingräber (ed. Henri Marteau, 1926), Faber (ed. Neil Heyde, 1995), and Bärenreiter (ed. Hugh Macdonald, 2003). The latter publisher also issued a full score with set of parts as a spin-off from the New Berlioz Edition in 2003. More impressive still is the list of supreme violinists who left behind interpretations of Rêverie et caprice on disc: Menuhin (1967), Szigeti (1969), Grumiaux (1972), Joseph Suk (1978), Perlman (1981), and a host of lesser lights. Our edition is the first to combine both the orchestral and piano versions in a single volume.

Bradford Robinson, 2006

For performance material please contact the publisher Breitkopf und Härtel, Wiesbaden.Reprint of a copy from the Musikbibliothek der Münchner Stadtbibliothek, München.

Score No.






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