Hector Berlioz
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1803-12-11
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/274774a7-1cde-486a-bc3d-375ec54d552d
Hector Berlioz

Biography

Berlioz: a profoundly original composer and brilliant writer; sensitive, agnostic, humorous, sardonic. During his life, and after his death his detractors outnumbered his admirers. A century later those detractors started to die out and Berlioz is now securely seated in ...

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Biography

Berlioz: a profoundly original composer and brilliant writer; sensitive, agnostic, humorous, sardonic. During his life, and after his death his detractors outnumbered his admirers. A century later those detractors started to die out and Berlioz is now securely seated in the pantheon of great composers.

The eldest child of a country doctor, Berlioz duly enrolled in the School of Medicine in Paris. His determination to study composition was, however, so intense that he soon got himself accepted as a pupil of Jean-François Le Sueur. A seven-year apprenticeship which produced among other things his first orchestral work, the thrilling Les francs-juges Overture, culminated in 1830 when he won the prestigious Prix de Rome and single-handedly promoted the premiere of his Symphonie fantastique. This electrifying work made him notorious, not least because it included overt autobiography – his adolescent worship of Estelle Duboeuf (he was 12, she 18, when he first saw her) and his passion for Harriet Smithson, the Irish actress he was to marry.

Now began a career veering between heady success and debilitating failure. The decade after 1831 saw three more extraordinary symphonies (Harold in Italy, Romeo and Juliet, Symphonie funèbre et triomphale), the Requiem (the greatest success of his life), the opera Benvenuto Cellini (a failure) and the exquisite song cycle Les nuits d’été. But his music was so unconventional that it inevitably aroused antagonism, as did his journalism; in his secondary career as a music critic, prudence fought losing battles with artistic ideals. The positions to which he was obviously fitted – music director of the Opéra or professor at the Conservatoire – were denied him. For income he relied on his journalism, supplemented, from 1842, by concert tours abroad conducting (mostly) his own music. In Germany, Russia and England he was acclaimed the greatest conductor of his age.

The Revolution of 1848 left him contemptuous of politics, and his music became seemingly more ‘Classical’, notably in The Childhood of Christ (1854), a rare triumph. The splendours of his last great work, The Trojans (1856–8, never performed complete in his lifetime), showed, however, that his music was as modern as it had ever been. His final years were blighted by illness and then by the death of his son Louis. But a little earlier he had visited Estelle and rekindled that poignant relationship with which, if the facts were not more prosaic, one would like to think his life had become complete.

Profile © Ian Kemp

Hector Berlioz Audio & Video


Hector Berlioz Tracks

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Hector Berlioz
Marche hongroise (Rakoczy march) from La Damnation de Faust
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Marche hongroise (Rakoczy march) from La Damnation de Faust
Hector Berlioz
Symphonie fantastique S.470, transc. for piano; 2nd movement: Un Bal
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Symphonie fantastique S.470, transc. for piano; 2nd movement: Un Bal
Hector Berlioz
Romeo et Juliette - symphonie dramatique, Op.17
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Romeo et Juliette - symphonie dramatique, Op.17
Hector Berlioz
Damnation de Faust: Marche hongroise (Rakoczy march)
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Damnation de Faust: Marche hongroise (Rakoczy march)
Hector Berlioz
Le Carnaval Romain: Overture, Op.9
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Le Carnaval Romain: Overture, Op.9
Hector Berlioz
Harold en Italie - symphony Op.16 for viola and orchestra: 3rd mvt; Serenade
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Harold en Italie - symphony Op.16 for viola and orchestra: 3rd mvt; Serenade
Hector Berlioz
Le Carnaval romain - overture (Op.9)
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Le Carnaval romain - overture (Op.9)
Hector Berlioz
Love Scene (Romeo and Juliet)
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Love Scene (Romeo and Juliet)
Hector Berlioz
La Mort de Cleopatre (The Death of Cleopatra)
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La Mort de Cleopatre (The Death of Cleopatra)
Hector Berlioz
The Shepherds' Farewell
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The Shepherds' Farewell
Hector Berlioz
Trio des Ismaelites from L'enfance du Christ
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Trio des Ismaelites from L'enfance du Christ
Hector Berlioz
L' Enfance du Christ Op.25 Pt.3 sc.1; Trio pour deux flutes et harpe
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L' Enfance du Christ Op.25 Pt.3 sc.1; Trio pour deux flutes et harpe
Hector Berlioz
L'Enfance du Christ: The Shepherds' Farewell to the Holy Family
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L'Enfance du Christ: The Shepherds' Farewell to the Holy Family
Hector Berlioz
Symphonie fantastique (Op.14), 2nd movement; Un Bal (Valse) (Allegro non troppo)
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Symphonie fantastique (Op.14), 2nd movement; Un Bal (Valse) (Allegro non troppo)
Hector Berlioz
Symphonie Fantastique (Op.14), 5th mvt ‘Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat’
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Symphonie Fantastique (Op.14), 5th mvt ‘Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat’
Hector Berlioz
Beatrice et Benedict - (Op.27), Overture
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Beatrice et Benedict - (Op.27), Overture
Carl Maria von Weber
Invitation to the dance - rondo brillant, orch. Berlioz [orig. for piano]
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Invitation to the dance - rondo brillant, orch. Berlioz [orig. for piano]
Hector Berlioz
Harold in Italy, Harold aux montagnes
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Harold in Italy, Harold aux montagnes
Hector Berlioz
Le Ballet des Ombres
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Le Ballet des Ombres
Hector Berlioz
Overture to Les Franc-juges (Op.3)
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Overture to Les Franc-juges (Op.3)
Hector Berlioz
Les Nuits d'ete Op.7 voice and piano or orchestra: no.2; Le Spectre de la rose
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Les Nuits d'ete Op.7 voice and piano or orchestra: no.2; Le Spectre de la rose
Hector Berlioz
Intermezzo; Chasse royale et orage [Royal hunt & storm] from Les Troyens a Carthage
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Intermezzo; Chasse royale et orage [Royal hunt & storm] from Les Troyens a Carthage
Hector Berlioz
Symphonie fantastique (Op.14), 2nd movement; Un Bal (Valse) (Allegro non troppo)
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Symphonie fantastique (Op.14), 2nd movement; Un Bal (Valse) (Allegro non troppo)
Add music you love and enjoy it
Playlists featuring Hector Berlioz
BBC Orchestras and Choirs
BBC Orchestras and Choirs
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
Essential Classics: Guest Choices
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
Radio 3 Breakfast: Music Box
BBC Proms 2015: Katie Derham Curates
BBC Proms 2015: Katie Derham Curates


Hector Berlioz Biography

Berlioz: a profoundly original composer and brilliant writer; sensitive, agnostic, humorous, sardonic. During his life, and after his death his detractors outnumbered his admirers. A century later those detractors started to die out and Berlioz is now securely seated in the pantheon of great composers.

The eldest child of a country doctor, Berlioz duly enrolled in the School of Medicine in Paris. His determination to study composition was, however, so intense that he soon got himself accepted as a pupil of Jean-François Le Sueur. A seven-year apprenticeship which produced among other things his first orchestral work, the thrilling Les francs-juges Overture, culminated in 1830 when he won the prestigious Prix de Rome and single-handedly promoted the premiere of his Symphonie fantastique. This electrifying work made him notorious, not least because it included overt autobiography – his adolescent worship of Estelle Duboeuf (he was 12, she 18, when he first saw her) and his passion for Harriet Smithson, the Irish actress he was to marry.

Now began a career veering between heady success and debilitating failure. The decade after 1831 saw three more extraordinary symphonies (Harold in Italy, Romeo and Juliet, Symphonie funèbre et triomphale), the Requiem (the greatest success of his life), the opera Benvenuto Cellini (a failure) and the exquisite song cycle Les nuits d’été. But his music was so unconventional that it inevitably aroused antagonism, as did his journalism; in his secondary career as a music critic, prudence fought losing battles with artistic ideals. The positions to which he was obviously fitted – music director of the Opéra or professor at the Conservatoire – were denied him. For income he relied on his journalism, supplemented, from 1842, by concert tours abroad conducting (mostly) his own music. In Germany, Russia and England he was acclaimed the greatest conductor of his age.

The Revolution of 1848 left him contemptuous of politics, and his music became seemingly more ‘Classical’, notably in The Childhood of Christ (1854), a rare triumph. The splendours of his last great work, The Trojans (1856–8, never performed complete in his lifetime), showed, however, that his music was as modern as it had ever been. His final years were blighted by illness and then by the death of his son Louis. But a little earlier he had visited Estelle and rekindled that poignant relationship with which, if the facts were not more prosaic, one would like to think his life had become complete.

Profile © Ian Kemp

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