The concert overture Romeo and Juliet
, probably composed in the mid-1860s, was published in Leipzig a year after Pierson’s death and first heard in Britain at a Crystal Palace Saturday Concert. Whereas his symphonic poem Macbeth
is provided with extensive stage directions and quotations, and his Schiller overture The Maid of Orleans
prefaced by a detailed explanation of each section, Romeo and Juliet
lacks any such guidance. Nevertheless it is not difficult to recognise Romeo himself in the brooding appassionato descending figure given to the lower strings and bassoon at the opening, and Juliet in the graceful, artless motif that follows. Stately tutti sections give a flavour of Verona’s rich festivities, and Romeo’s wooing of Juliet is also to be recognised in the many question-and-answer phrases. All this is expressed in short, pregnant musical ideas which follow one another at an almost disconcertingly kaleidoscopic speed. Pierson’s rhythmic variety and piquant use of the orchestra have sometimes been compared with that of Berlioz, and his music certainly exhibits a fresh, unfettered imagination that has earned him the reputation of one of the few avant-garde British composers of this period.
from notes by Hugh Priory © 1991