Peter Sarsgaard, Harold in Italy

Two unrelated morning names today: the actor Peter Sarsgaard, the Berlioz symphony Harold en Italie.

Sarsgaard. From Wikipedia, the briefest summary of the actor’s substantial career:

John Peter Sarsgaard (… born March 7, 1971) is an American actor [in film, television, and theatre], best known for his role in the 2004 comedy-drama Garden State. He landed his first feature role in the movie Dead Man Walking in 1995.

… Sarsgaard is married to actress Maggie Gyllenhaal.

The actor’s range is considerable, but he’s known for taking a number of rough or threatening roles. Here he is in an informal photo, looking amiable and hunky:

Harold. From Wikipedia, with a nice back-story:

Harold en Italie, Symphonie en quatre parties avec un alto principal (English: Harold in Italy, Symphony in Four Parts with Viola Obbligato), Op. 16, is Hector Berlioz’s second symphony, written in 1834.

Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840) encouraged Berlioz (1803–1869) to write Harold en Italie. The two first met after a concert of Berlioz’s works conducted by Narcisse Girard on 22 December 1833, three years after the premiere of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. Paganini had acquired a superb viola, a Stradivarius—”But I have no suitable music. Would you like to write a solo for viola? You are the only one I can trust for this task.”

… Lord Byron’s poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage inspired the mood of Harold. Berlioz wrote, “My intention was to write a series of orchestral scenes, in which the solo viola would be involved as a more or less active participant while retaining its own character. By placing it among the poetic memories formed from my wanderings in the Abruzzi, I wanted to make the viola a kind of melancholy dreamer in the manner of Byron’s Childe-Harold.”

A performance (audio only) of the first movement, with violist William Primrose and the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Charles Munch, is available here.

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