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Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique

The Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, despite its Gallic moniker, was founded in England in 1990 by noted conductor John Eliot Gardiner. The organization was the next logical step in the evolution of the period-performance movement, its purpose to present the music of the Romantic era (broadly, from Beethoven to the early twentieth century with emphasis on the early Romantics) as authentically as possible. It is a sobering thought that orchestral music from the first half of the nineteenth century was heard on crooked horns, woodwinds with minimal keys, and now-extinct instruments such as the ophiclide, to say nothing of interpretive idiosyncrasies of the era. That said, even the best and most sincere recordings of Karajan or Solti of the Beethoven symphonies were bound to sound quite different from what audiences of 1820 heard. Gardiner's mission was to treat the music of Beethoven, Weber, and Berlioz with the same scholarly respect accorded to early, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical period works as an alternative, rather than replacement, to the best modern treatments of the same. The O.R.R. under Gardiner has released some musicologically significant recordings. The 1991 Antwerp discovery of a surviving score of Berlioz's Messe Solennelle, a work dismantled by the self-critical composer and used as "lumber" for future works, led to the 1994 premiere recording of the mass, revealing an energy and even joyfulness in the score. The Gardiner/O.R.R. 1997 recording of Leonore revealed to the musical public Beethoven's early attempt at the opera that would one day become Fidelio. Typical of the re-creative readings of the Orchestre are acclaimed sets of the Beethoven symphonies, Schumann's orchestral works, and Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique, the latter in which not only instrumentation and interpretation followed ca. 1830 practice, but was also recorded in the Ancien Conservatoire of Paris where Berlioz conducted his work, in order to obtain acoustic fidelity as well. The O.R.R.'s traversal of the large-scale music of Romantic era has extended to early Brahms and Verdi. It may be imagined that investigation by Gardiner and his ensemble in performance practices such as the use of elastic tempi and string portamento will yield re-discoveries of the late Romantic works by Brahms, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, and others.
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