11 December 1803 - 8 March 1869 (age 65)

Hector Berlioz was a French 19th century composer, writer, music critic and conductor. He changed the sound of modern orchestras.




Conductor and writer


More French composers here

Portrait of Berlioz


Born: December 11, 1803. La Côte-St-André, Isère, France
Louis Berlioz, doctor, scholar, atheist
Mother: Marie-Antoinette-Josephine, Catholic
Siblings: Five, three of which died very young, his sisters Nanci and Adele remained close to him.
1st wife: Harriet Smithson, Irish Shakespearian actress
2nd wife: singer Marie-Geneviève Martin, alias Marie Recio (1814-1862)
Children: Son (by Harriet), Louis-Thomas, died 1867
March 8, 1869. Paris, France
Grave: Cimetiere de Montmartre, Paris, France



Operas/choral works:

 - Benvenuto Cellini
 - Le Troyens
 - Beatrice and Benedict
 - Les Francs-juges (incomplete)
 - Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem)
 - La Damnation de Faust
 - Te Deum
 - L'Enfance du Christ


 - Symphonie Fantastique
 - Harold en Italie
 - Romeo et Juliette
 - The Corsair
 - King Lear
 - Grande Symphonie funebre et triomphale.

Les Troyens (The Trojans)
"What a Discovery... his Greatest Opera "Les Troyens"!"

An interesting background article to the opera. Read it here.
Written by a visitor to www.52composers.com.

Benvenuto Cellini

Two Geniuses - Berlioz and Cellini : another interesting illustrated article by Dieter Schoop about the outstanding opera 'Benvenuto Cellini'

La Damnation de Faust

Another review by Dieter Schoop 'Damnation de Faust'


An interesting illustrated article by Dieter Schoop about the Requiem

Tony Palmer's film 'I, Berlioz'

89 minute film directed by the acclaimed, award-winning director Tony Palmer and starring Corin Redgrave.

"I, Hector Louis Berlioz, composer, musician, citizen of France, tell you, in this my Last Will and Testament, that my subject is - and has always been - war." So begins an epic journey through the terrible struggles that Berlioz endured to get his great opera The Trojans performed. He never succeeded, and the effort cost him his life.

Sir Brian Young, former Director- General of the IBA, wrote at the time of the first transmission: "Absolutely magnificent. It will win the Prix Italia and every BAFTA award going."
(Amazon product review)

Amazon USA  

Symphonie Fantastique- 5th Movement


 - “At least I have the modesty to admit that lack of modesty is one of my failings”

- “The luck of having talent is not enough; one must also have a talent for luck”

- “Every composer knows the anguish and despair occasioned by forgetting ideas which one had no time to write down”

- "Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils."

Berlioz in Art
A fascinating collection of images in art, portrait, caricatures, cartoons, album covers and postage stamps

Books/CDs/DVDs etc

on Amazon.com (USA)

or on Amazon UK

The conductor He was considered by many to be the greatest conductor of his time. He started conducting out of impatience with how some other conductors treated his own compositions.
He never had a permanent position but was always in demand as a guest conductor which enabled him to travel widely.
It was also out of financial necessity as his own works were not performed very often due to the big expense of putting them on as many involved larger than usual orchestras and special effects.

The writer
He was also a prolific writer. His work as a music critic was a means of support for many years. He wrote hundreds of articles for, and sometimes edited the Gazette an intellectual arts journal and other magazines.
He also wrote books the most significant of which were:
- 'The Treatise on Modern Instrumentation and Orchestration" which became essential reading for successive composers and conductors.
- 'Les Soirées de l'Orchestre' (Evenings with the Orchestra) a compilation of his articles about musical life in 19th century France.
- 'Mémoires' an autobiography

Romeo & Juliet, ballet, Jorge Donn, Suzanne Farrell. 

Overture to Roman Carnival
Played by the National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain (under 13s)

Jessye Norman as Cassandra in Les Troyens

See more videos and read an interesting article on our Les Troyens page

Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem) - Tuba mirum
Monteverdi Choir

See more videos and read an interesting article on the Requiem page.

Harold in Italy (trailer)
David Aaron Carpenter and Vladimir Ashkenazy discuss their new recording

Links, sources and where to go for more information

- The Hector Berlioz Website - by far the best Berlioz site on the web (in English or in French)

- Answers.com

- The Berlioz Society
The Berlioz Society

- Treatise on Instrumentation (Wikipedia)

- French composers at 52composers.com

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