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UC Davis Symphony Orchestra: “Italian Journey”

October 14, 2022 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

$12 – $24

Christian Baldini, director and conductor


Hector Berlioz: Harold in Italy

with Wendy Richman, viola

Harold in Italy was brought about by a commission by the famous 19th century violinist Nicolo Paganini in 1834. Berlioz was commissioned by Paganini not for a violin concerto but for a work that would feature Paganini and his new Stradivarius viola. Paganini thought the viola solo was too simplistic when he saw the score and declined to give the premiere. But when he heard it performed (albeit four years later) he was so pleased he paid Berlioz 20,000 francs anyway.

The title suggests a sort of tour of Italy, as well as the 19th-century poem by Lord Byron, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.” The Harold in Byron’s poem gazes upon the city of Venice standing against the forces of nature, while the Harold in Berlioz’s symphony travels the mountainous Abruzzo region of central Italy, as Berlioz himself once did. Scholars agree the music is more autobiographical than an illustration of the Byron Poem.

The listener should keep in mind the character of Harold is the viola solo, and in the first movement, Harold in the Mountains, Harold is wandering through the grandeur of the Abruzzi mountains outside of Rome. In the second Harold witnesses a March of the Pilgrims, which shows off Berlioz’s ability to create an image of an orchestral procession coming toward and then away from the listener without ever moving; be sure to listen closely to the harp, which indicates a distant ringing of the bell at the monastery. The third movement is a Serenade between two lovers, and no doubt Harold had his new wife, Harriet, in mind. Of the fourth and final movement—Orgy of the Brigands—all of the themes collide in, well, a diabolical march. The historian Jacques Barzun astutely observed: “The brigand of Berlioz’s time is the avenger of social injustice, the rebel against the City, who resorts to nature for healing the wounds of social man.”

Wendy Richman has been celebrated internationally for her compelling sound and imaginative interpretations in a wide range of genres. Her debut solo album, vox/viola (New Focus Recordings, 2020), features nine commissioned works for singing violist by leading contemporary composers. She is a founding member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, with whom she performs regularly in New York City and around the world, and she has performed regularly with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the period instrument ensemble Tesserae. Dr. Richman is a faculty member at both UCLA and California State University-Northridge (CSUN), where she teaches a variety of academic music courses and applied viola, and she is a sought-after clinician at universities and conservatories across the country.


October 14, 2022
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
$12 – $24
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