Les Nuits D’été is a collection of six songs that Berlioz based on poems by Theophile Gautier, his friend and neighbour in Paris. The unifying theme throughout the songs is love. Youthful innocence and passionate intimacy soon give way to tragic loss and great sorrow. In the final song there comes a readiness to open the heart to a new love.
When, during his stay in Rome, Berlioz heard that his beloved in Paris had married someone else in his absence, he rushed back with two pistols and a bottle of poison to take gruesome revenge. It was a long journey though, and Berlioz's rage gradually cooled. Between Rome and Florence, he read Shakespeare's King Lear, and arriving in Nice he started to write a concert overture that admirably captured the essence of King Lear.
Like Berlioz, Mendelssohn was also fascinated by the work of Shakespeare. At the age of 17 he wrote a concert overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Many years later, he composed the music for a full production of what is perhaps Shakespeare's best known comedy.
Le Roi Lear, op. 4
Les Nuits d'été, op. 7
Selection from A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 61