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Hector Berlioz

(1803 - 1869)

Berlioz was born in France at La Cote-Saint-Andre near Lyon on 11 December 1803.

Hector Berlioz was considered to be an outsider as far as the French musical establishment was concerned and not all his works were well received.

Against his family's wishes Berlioz abandoned his medical studies in favor of a career as a composer. 

While he was still a student at the Paris Conservatoire, he fell in love with the Irish actress, Harriet Smithson and they were married a year later.

Berlioz loved literature and some of his greatest works were inspired by the writings of Byron, Shakespeare and Goethe.

The years following his second marriage to the singer, Marie Recio, were the happiest and most productive of his life.

He spent much of his time traveling in Europe were he was admired as a conductor, critic and writer. 

On 8 March 1869, Hector Berlioz died at his Paris home; No.4 rue de Calais.

His funeral was held at the recently completed Eglise de la Trinite and he was buried in Montmartre Cemetery with his two wives, who were exhumed and re-buried next to him.


The meadow scene in the Symphonie Fantastique of 1830, an orchestral work that contains autobiographical elements and suggests new paths in composition, expresses the great "yearning" underlying the romantic imagination.

His interest in Shakespeare had a result in the dramatic symphony Romeo and Juliet.

The overture Le Carnaval Romain (Roman Carnival) was derived from his opera Benvenuto Cellini, while Le Corsaire has at least Byronic overtones.

He wrote the opera Les Troyens (The Trojans), later divided into two parts, The Capture of Troy and The Trojans in 1858.

Excerpts from the opera, the music for the Royal Hunt and Storm, in which the Carthaginian Queen Dido and her Trojan lover Aeneas realize their love for each other, can be heard in concert programs.

Other important works by Berlioz include the Eight Scenes from Faust, later revised as The Damnation of Faust, one of the most original of a number compositions based on Goethe's drama.

The Christmas oratorio L'enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ) is a significant and characteristic work, with the remarkable and extravagantly orchestrated Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem) with its brass bands and massed choirs.



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