Hector Berlioz is the guiding spirit of the programme of Musikfest Berlin 2019. His reception history is felt even in those instances where he is not present as a composer. In this matinée, Alexander Melnikov will welcome him with works by his good friends. Berlioz held Rossini’s operas in high esteem and he shot his caustic, at time venomous, verbal arrows at all those whom he caught interfering with Rossini’s scores by abridging, retouching or treating them with slovenliness. He would have delighted in the piano pieces which his revered colleague wrote after the end of his opera career. Eric Satie, Charles Ives and Richard Strauss anticipate these accounts of life, experience and demise in one – with the same cheerfully mischievous expression with which Vladimir Horovitz would look at the audience after he made a mistake.
The second salute comes from Franz Liszt, who greatly contributed to Berlioz’ recognition in Germany during his time as the court’s Kapellmeister in Weimar. Long before, he had committed the Symphonie fantastique into the performance spectrum of his own two hands. This was something quite different from the piano scores for two or four hands, which were the usual piano format in which orchestra works were published to complement the orchestra scores. Liszt demonstrated the great art of suggestions, which, according to the words of Robert Schumann, “turns a piano into an orchestra of lamenting and loudly rejoicing [and here we should add dance-like and elated, natural and infernal] voices.”