Hector Berlioz Biography (BBC)
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 Biography (Wikipedia)
Hector Berlioz ( (English:); 11 December 1803 – 8 March 1869) was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts (Requiem). Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works, and conducted several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians. He also composed around 50 songs. His influence was critical for the further development of Romanticism, especially in composers like Richard Wagner, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, and Gustav Mahler.
- Berlioz: Romeo and Juliet (extract)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03ntkkr.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03ntkkr.jpg2016-04-17T11:00:00.000ZPreview of music performed at the BBC Promshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03ntp5c
Berlioz: Romeo and Juliet (extract)
- Ailish Tynan, Alasdair Tait and James Baillieu perform Berlioz's 'La Captive' live on In Tunehttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03pcyh2.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03pcyh2.jpg2016-03-29T10:51:00.000ZAilish Tynan, Alasdair Tait and James Baillieu perform Berlioz live on In Tunehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03pczzb
Ailish Tynan, Alasdair Tait and James Baillieu perform Berlioz's 'La Captive' live on In Tune
- Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique (extract)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02mqycj.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02mqycj.jpg2015-04-23T09:00:00.000ZAn extract from Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastiquehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p02mqydj
Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique (extract)
- Berlioz: The Trojanshttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0206cqg.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0206cqg.jpg2014-07-11T13:46:00.000ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Suzy Klein talks about Berlioz's The Trojanshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p022nfq1
Berlioz: The Trojans
- Hector Berliozhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01zzwz3.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01zzwz3.jpg2014-05-30T12:00:00.000ZDonald Macleod explores the life and work of quintessential romantic, Hector Berliozhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p020030f
- Words and Musichttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01zvvs2.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01zvvs2.jpg2014-05-27T16:32:00.000ZCharles Hazlewood explores how composers have approached setting words to music.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01zvvs7
Words and Music
- Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01yn6sk.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01yn6sk.jpg2014-05-07T13:02:00.000ZDonald Macleod discusses the music of Berlioz with John Eliot Gardiner.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01yn6t9
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
- Berlioz: Overture 'King Lear' - Preview Cliphttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpg2013-12-17T14:09:00.000ZListen to an excerpt from Berlioz's Overture 'King Lear'.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01nkvd3
Berlioz: Overture 'King Lear' - Preview Clip
- Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique - Preview Cliphttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpg2013-12-10T16:28:00.000ZListen to an excerpt from Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01n4z87
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique - Preview Clip
Hector Berlioz Performances
Audio & Video from Similar Artists
The London Gay Symphony Orchestra
Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche
Chord Of The Week - Programme 5
Chord Of The Week - Programme 4
Richard Strauss: Also sprach Zarathustra
Chord of the Week
Gabriel Fauré: Requiem (Pie Jesu)
In Tune Sessions: watch cellist Guy Johnston play Fauré
Strauss: An Alpine Symphony (extract)