Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor
At no time in musical history has a composer travelled so far, and as quickly, as Beethoven in his Eroica Symphony. This is music that appears to breathe the air of a different planet, lacerating 18th-century sensibilities along the way. Not only is it longer than any symphony previously written, but the emotional content is startlingly raw, with brutal sforzandos rammed home, harmonic dissonances revelled in as never before, and fizzing virtuosity demanded of the players at every turn. Music would never be the same again. Meanwhile, Beethoven’s hearing was fast fading and by declaring himself ‘emperor’, his hero Napoleon had become ‘just another tyrant’. Cast in five trailablazing movements, Symphonie fantastique celebrates Berlioz's delirious infatuation with the Irish actress, Harriet Smithson, who crops up throughout by means of her own musical signature or idée fixe. After taking a draft of opium, Berlioz's wild ravings climax in a Witches' Sabbath finale, which sees Harriet consorting with all manner of ghouls and fiends.