Harold in Italy with Dana Zemtsov

14 January 2024

Concert Date

14 January 2024 - 7:30 pm

Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London

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Enjoy a dazzling evening of French orchestral music at London’s illustrious Southbank Centre. Starring viola virtuoso Dana Zemtsov in Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, this is the perfect way to round off the weekend. Before the concert delve deeper into the music with Radio 3’ presenter of Composer of the Week, Donald Mcleod, tonight’s conductor Peter Manning and poet Fiona Sampson MBE, who has written extensively on the links between music and poetry, as they discuss the Romantic hero in the work of Berlioz and Lord Byron.

First on the programme is an elegant and dramatic overture by Louise Farrenc, influenced by the fashion for opera in Paris in the 1830s. Not one to let the fact that she was a woman stop her, Farrenc was a trailblazer on the 19th-century Parisian music scene. As well as being an extraordinary pianist and in-demand teacher, she was an admired composer, with Berlioz himself commenting on ‘the magic of her musical palette’.

The centrepiece of the evening is Berlioz’s Harold in Italy. Filled with beautiful melodies and joyous dances, the piece is inspired by the composer’s own travels in Italy and Lord Byron’s poem Childe Harold. If the viola was a Hollywood movie star, this would be the piece that took it from supporting role stalwart to best actor in a leading role.

Viola soloist Dana Zemtsov, with her ‘powerful tone and compelling narrative power’ (NRC Daily) comes from a long line of viola virtuosos and brings to life the character of Harold, a restless and disillusioned antihero on a quest to rediscover pleasure and purpose.

After all that romantic drama, Poulenc’s fun, refreshing Sinfonietta closes the night. It’s happy music written by a man who was living his best life, having thrown off the shackles of parental expectation.

Pre-concert talk
6.15pm in the Queen Elizabeth Hall
Byron in Italy: a little biography of Berlioz’s Romantic hero
Broadcaster Donald Mcleod hosts a pre-concert talk with Peter Manning and writer, poet and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature Fiona Sampson MBE. They explore the Romantic hero in the work of Berlioz and Lord Byron and examine the female voice in 19th-century music and literature.
The pre-concert talk is free to ticket-holders for the concert in the QEH on the same evening.


  • Louise Farrenc
    Overture in E minor
  • Berlioz
    Harold in Italy
  • Poulenc
  • Bath Festival Orchestra
  • Peter Manning, conductor
  • Dana Zemtsov, viola

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