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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Not one to let the fact that she was a woman stop her, Louise Farrenc was a mover and shaker on the Paris music scene in the mid-1800s. 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”. In 1830’s Paris, opera was the name of the game and there is more than a touch of operatic drama and emotion in this rip-roaring roller coaster ride of an overture.

If the viola was a Hollywood movie star then Berlioz’s Harold in Italy (inspired by a combination of the composer’s own travels in Italy and Lord Byron’s poem Childe Harold) would be the piece that took it from supporting role stalwart to best actor in a leading role. Harold (Dana Zemtsov, viola “powerful tone and compelling narrative power.” Josep Stapel NRC Daily) is a restless and disillusioned antihero wandering through Italy in a quest to rediscover pleasure and purpose. And it’s an oscar-worthy role, featuring an epic hike through the Italian mountains, a spiritual awakening, voyeurism and even a brief dalliance with a band of outlaws, all delivered through heart-stoppingly beautiful melodies and joyous dances.

Lively, witty and brimming with good tunes, Poulenc’s Sinfonietta is a pared-down neoclassical palette-cleanser after the indulgent romanticism of Farrenc and Berlioz. This is 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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