Symphonie Fantastique and Lelio at NJSO



What a treat: the familiar and the rare. Jacques Lacombe and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra brought their usual verve to the concert staple “Symphonie Fantastique.” Considered Berlioz’s signature work, this 1830 composition marked the change of eras from Classical to Romantic.

But the braver souls who didn’t leave at intermission due to the oncoming snow storm got an even bigger treat, with Berlioz’s rarely performed “Lelio.” Loosely autobiographical, the piece is a drug-inspired meditation on the hard life of an artist confronted with the towering genius of the likes of Shakespeare. Part symphony, part opera, part drama, part choral, this titanic work is rarely performed due to the demands it puts on the presenters.

But the demands of “Lelio” on the orchestra, staging, chorus, soloists, actors, and all add up to a rare treat. Shakespeare and Berlioz, Jacques and the NJSO, the soloists and the Manhattan School of Music Chorus gave us a magical evening. All climaxed in a choral recapitulation of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

And then mother nature unleashed a real world tempest after we got safely home from the concert: the Great Blizzard of 2016. Was that also part of the program?

Phil Neches



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