On my most recent visit to New York City, I was foiled in my first attempt to see how spring was coming on in the Central Park Conservatory Garden. The scent of lilacs mixed with privilege wafted through the fence, and police were on hand to shoo away uninvited guests. Riverside Park, at least, remained open to ordinary blossom gazers, so that day I retraced my steps. The weather for a return trip to the Conservatory Garden wasn’t promising, but the rain stopped, the sun reappeared, and off I went in the summer-like heat.
Hector Berlioz, Les Nuits d’été
The rapid, mandarin brilliance of Gautier’s prose was widely recognized and admired, together with his famous facility. “It’s all a question of good syntax,” he would say. “I throw my sentences into the air…and like cats I know they will always land on their feet.”
I wonder whether the same would have been said of his poetry. In the case of Les Nuits d’été, I’d say he had a good bit of help from Berlioz . . .
On Spotify: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
On YouTube: Véronique Gens
The one to purchase: Karen Cargill (soprano); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Robin Ticciati, with thanks, once again, to David Nice for the recommendation.
About Karen Cargill
From the BBC Music Magazine Review of the CD:
Scottish star mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, in fact, has a remarkably beautiful voice, full of sunny delicacy and warmth but also capable of Wagnerian dramatics.
From The Arts Desk interview with Conductor Robin Ticciati:
Yes, where does it come from? [Cargill] gets up there and she’s gripped by it. And look, isn’t it one of those wonderful things, she is an ordinary, beautiful, honest Glasgow girl, and maybe it’s the idea of the music when she’s in front of it and in that moment releases something that ordinary life cannot grasp or get hold of, isn’t that the way with some people sometimes? She is a very special singer, and she was there at my very first concert with the SCO, we did the Death of Cleopatra in 2009. And so we got onto this Berlioz journey, I’m so thrilled.
Bonus Track: Listen to the opening of Benjamin Britten’s Villes from Les Illuminations side-by-side with the opening of Berlioz’s Villanelle from Les Nuits d’été:
To listen on Spotify, click here.
Villes (at 2:07) (Britten)
Postscript: While in New York City, I experienced another kind of beautiful blooming: a Contemporaneous concert, conducted by David Bloom. The ensemble’s performance standard, already excellent, took yet another exponential leap. The concert photograph above includes featured guests Nitin Mitta on tabla and Aaron Shragge on tamboura in the world premiere of Michael Harrison‘s Tessellations. I can’t wait to see and hear what Contemporaneous does next. (For those on Facebook, more photographs of the concert may be found here.)
Credits: Quotations are from the sources linked in the text. The photographs, as always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, are mine.