Recently rediscovered Méhul symphony to receive performance

Posted on: November 9, 2010

In Tuesday’s (11/9) Guardian (London), Mark Brown writes, “A classical music ‘missing link’ that was lost for 200 years and has hardly been heard since it was written by its pioneering composer, then in the early stages of tuberculosis, will tomorrow night be performed in a London concert hall for the first time. The name Étienne Méhul is not nearly as well known as say Beethoven or Berlioz, but tomorrow’s performance provides an opportunity to pay tribute to a composer who arguably deserves a greater place in 19th-century musical history books. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will perform Méhul’s fourth symphony—and herald it as a long-lost prototype for the 19th-century romantic cyclic symphony, but written 20 years before Berlioz took up the form in his Symphonie Fantastique. The lost symphony was discovered by David Charlton in 1979 but it has taken a remarkable 31 years for it to be performed at a concert hall in London.” No score existed, so Charlton had to reconstruct it from a set of instrumental parts. “As he got towards the end of it, Charlton saw a four-note motif from the first movement returning. … Around the same time Méhul’s contemporary Beethoven was, separately, doing a similar thing in his fifth symphony.”

Posted November 9, 2010