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National Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlioz

2003. 05. 01.

ZOLTÁN KOCSIS has for a long time been methodically endeavouring to make French music loved in Hungary.

Recently he has turned his attention to Berlioz: leading the NATIONAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, he conducted Berlioz's dramatic symphony, Romeo and Juliet, written when the composer was 36 year old. In accordance with its generic description, this lengthy work offers a variety of means of expression to the performers: there are dramatic, epic and lyrical passages, we hear in it recitative, choral commentaries and illustrative orchestral movements, dialogues and narratives. In its means of thinking, Romeo and Juliet welcomes all. The composer in 1839 did not shrink away from essayistic literary theorising or from religious and moral preaching: the libretto in one place praises Shakespeare himself, while at the end, Friar Lawrence's speech commands the Montagues and Capulets to make peace with each other in the name of God, as Romeo and Juliet had obediently done earlier. This enables the conductor to construct a grand scale, richly expansive, picturesque and sensuous production, complex in its effect and often attractive in its naivety. Kocsis fully made the most of the opportunity. His orchestra, on the evidence of this concert, is not only mature to test itself on such a work, but has the necessary reserves of technique, which are requisite to set about such a challenge with the necessary security. This is important because as a result, the critic can assert that the execution was not just successful but was characterised by firmness and decisiveness. During the course of the expansive movements of Romeo and Juliet, the various sections of the symphonic ensemble demonstrated what they could do in the most varied tasks: we heard brass passages of elemental power, subtly worked out woodwind solos, and the full gamut of string sonority from lyric cantabile to heavy dense proclamation. The HUNGARIAN NATIONAL CHOIR (choirmaster: MÁTYÁS ANTAL) excelled as a chamber choir and as rich sounding grand ensemble. The three soloists: SYLVIE SULLÉ (mezzo-soprano), GUY FLECHTER (tenor) and JEAN-PHILIPPE COURTIS (bass) made their contribution at an equally high level, but the most important element of their participation was not the quality of their imported voices but the authenticity of their annunciating the texts in French, what I would call the specially declamatory style of singing (unknown in Hungary) which indivisible from this – it truly contributed to the overall effectiveness of this performance of Romeo and Juliet. The bass, who had a very fine voice, was not only rewarded with an expansive part, more rewarding than that of the others, but he himself made the very most of it, offering a very effective interpretation, particularly Friar Lawrence's extensive and pathos filled final speech at the end of the work. (27th of March – Music Academy)

Kristóf Csengery
(Muzsika, May 2003)

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