Hector Berlioz. La damnation de Faust, dramatic legend, Op. 24
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Led by its founder, artistic director and principal conductor Gintaras Rinkevičius, the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra and Kaunas State Choir present a powerful musical drama by the French composer Hector Berlioz (1803–69), whose scores are rarely performed – undeservedly so – in Lithuania. The composer was a true romantic both in life and in music. In his creative world he was as passionate, intense, self-centered, neurotic and always blending fantasy with reality as he was in real life. Music was the expression of his ego and the legacy of his feelings and thoughts. Berlioz always found inspiration for his compositions in literature – uplifting poetry and exciting epic plots. Employing the entire arsenal of musical devices, he attempted the most precise and colourful rendition of the complexities of a literary work. Berlioz was a master of orchestration – a true painter. No one of his contemporaries could boast such a lavish and luxuriant palette of orchestral colours. No wonder, Hector Berlioz is often called 'the Delacroix of music'.
The story of Faust takes us back to the early 16th century. In 1509, Johann Georg Faust received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Heidelberg University. Faust, who apparently also studied magic in Krakow University, claimed that he could easily reproduce all the miracles of Christ. Reportedly, Doctor Faust delivered lectures on Homer's works while flying and had the power to call the spirits of mythological creatures, which left his students fascinated and horror-struck at the same time. It was a fatal accident during a flying class that reputedly killed him in 1540. After Doctor Faust's death, there were talks that he had got all the supernatural powers from the devil in exchange for his soul.
Hector Berlioz was 24 when he read Goethe's Faust. "I just couldn't put the book down," the composer wrote later. "I read it while eating, at the theatre, on the street – everywhere!" Nineteen years later, in 1846, audiences of the Paris Opéra Comique saw Hector Berlioz conduct the premiere of the dramatic legend for soloists, chorus and orchestra, The Damnation of Faust.