John Eliot Gardiner and his period instrument ensemble have rendered one of the finest performances I have heard of Berlioz's "Harold in Italy". It is probably comparable in quality to Sir Colin Davis' critically acclaimed recording with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Certainly the sound quality is exceptional. I found Gardiner's interpretation quite riveting, filled with excitement. Altogether a thrilling performance, highly recommendable to those who would not normally consider a version with period instruments.
Harold en Italie is named after the lugubriously romantic poem by Lord Byron, but it was inspired more directly by Berlioz's visit to Italy in 1831. Listeners often imagine that the lovely melody given to the viola represents the pensive observer Harold. The symphony is a riot of musical impressionism, all sunlight and mountain crags and adolescent yearnings...