Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hector Berlioz: France's Romantic Composer - Part 4

Final Years and Legacy

http://www.samuelhuet.com/graisivaudan/berlioz/img01.jpg     After his extensive travels throughout Europe, Berlioz  returned to Paris incapacitated by illness and saddened by many deaths. His first wife died in 1854; his second wife, Maria Recio, who had been his companion for many years and whom he had married when he became a widower, died suddenly in 1862. His son, Louis,  on whom Berlioz concentrated the affection of his declining years, died at the age of 33 of yellow fever.

 These dramatic events did not stop Berlioz from composing more music and traveling. In 1861 Berlioz produced his work Beatrice et Benedict, and in 1863 Les Troyens.  In 1866 Berlioz journeyed to Vienna and Russia where his music was accepted with great enthusiasm.

Following those tours, a lonely Berlioz returned to Paris where he died on March 8, 1869.  He left behind him many innovative compositions that had set the tone for the romantic period. He was a great inspiration to composers such as Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. Although some of his work was not well received during his life, his popularity increased after his death. Richard Wanger once said of Berlioz: “The reckless boldness and severe precision…took me by storm and impetuously fanned the flames of my personal feeling for music and poetry.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hector Berlioz:France's Romantic Composer - Part 3

Time of Productivity

           Hector Berlioz is now at the peak of his musical career in Paris. In 1830, Berlioz began and finished his Symphony Fantastique, which brought him  much fame and notoriety. Even today, many people think of this piece when they think of Berlioz. Berlioz was greatly inspired after he attended The Tempest by Shakespeare so much that he even composed an overture dedicated to Shakespeare which he called La Tempete. Berlioz also had the privilege of meeting Franz List, which resulted in the formation of a long and lasting friendship between the great composers.

          In 1832 Berlioz meets Harriet Smithson and marries her a year later, however he did not treasure their marriage and separated from his wife 10 years later. During these years he wrote some of his most popular works such as the symphony Harold en Italie (1834) and the choral work Requiem, also known as the Grande messe des morts (1837). During this same time, one of his operas, Benvenuto Cellini (1838) flopped and was never played again during his lifetime. This caused a great setback in his career. During this period he often had to resort to his job as a music critic to earn a steady income. There were bright spots during this time as well. In 1838, Niccolo Paganini hears Berlioz's Harold en Italie gives him a large financial gift which enabled him to write the choral symphony Romeo et Juliet (1839), dedicated to Paganini.

          Throughout the 1840’s Berlioz traveled throughout Europe working as a conductor to pay for his travels. When his choral work La Damnation de Faust became a financial sinkhole touring came to the rescue. Finally, Berlioz found his financial footing in 1850’s, when his L’Enfance du Christ (1854) was a success and he was elected to the Institute de France allowing him to receive another stipend!  During this time he also wrote 2 more operas which both had successful debuts.

Check out Part 4 Next week!
Guest Contributer: Piano Book 1 Student

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hector Berlioz: France's Romantic Composer - Part 2

Life as a Student

http://www.hberlioz.com/Photos/hb6.jpg          In Part 1 of this biography, we looked at the early life and musical experience of Hector Berlioz. Hector was expected to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a physician, however his passion for music took Berlioz in a different direction.

The Early Years
          In 1823, Hector Berlioz worked as a critic for the journal Le Corsaire in Paris and also composed his first big works, many of which are lost or destroyed by Berlioz himself. The Messe Solennelle (1824), Les Francs-Juges (1826), and the Waverley Overture (1827) are a few of his early compositions he failed to destroy so we can enjoy. His early works were not widely accepted at the time and ended in him failing to win the coveted Prix de Rome, a scholarship for arts students; though he tried again and again, submitting a new cantata each year. All of Berlioz's new works resulted in bad performances, but even with losing and failing so many times, Berlioz was still persistent and pushed himself to work hard. And in 1828, on his fourth attempt, Berlioz won second place in the Prix de Rome! This prize included a five year pension, which was badly needed for the struggling composer. 

          Berlioz was a lover and a learner, which was never so apparent then during these early years. During his long apprenticeship in Paris, Berlioz had exposure to great composers, like Ludwig van Beethoven and Carl Maria von Weber, and great poets like William Shakespeare and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Seeing the plays of Shakespeare motivated Berlioz to learn English, so he could read Shakespeare in the original. But Berlioz did not stop there. In 1827, Berlioz started singing in the chorus at Theatre des Nouveautes to grow his income. He was a great lover of the opera, which led Berlioz to begin writing musical criticism. This job helped him earn more money and support himself, while pursuing his passion for music and the arts.

Check out Part 3 Next week!

Guest Contributer: Piano Book 1 Student

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Hector Berlioz - France's Romantic Composer

"Love cannot express the idea of music, while music may give an idea of love." - Hector Berlioz

Historical Period: Romantic Era
Nationality: French
Born: December 11, 1803, La Côte Saint-André, France
Died: March 8,1869, Paris, France
Contemporaries: Frederic Chopin, Richard Wagner, Fromental Halévy,  Giacomo Meyerbeer, Gaspare Spontini

Early Life

Hector Berlioz was born in 1803 in a comfortable home in a villa north of Grenoble in France. His father was a respected physician and scholar. Because many schools were shutting down in the area, Hector received most of his education from his father at home. He showed interest in music at an early age, and despite being destined to become a physician like his father, he was encouraged to develop his musical skill. In 1816 he began to learn the flute and guitar and even began to compose many pieces which he saved and reused in later compositions. His earliest know composition is called the Pot-pourri, which is said to be lost. He also wrote a song for the voice and guitar which he would later use in his famous Symphonie Fantastique

In 1821 his father sent him to Paris to finish his medical studies. While he was there Berlioz also studied under Professor Jean-François Lesueur, who taught him Parisian music. It was also in Paris that Berlioz was exposed to opera and after being encouraged by his friend Jean-François Lesueur, Berlioz decided to fully give himself to music. After submitting to his father and attending medical school for a year Berlioz went home and declared his wish to pursue music full time. That was not good news to them, his parents were very upset. After failing to force him to abandon his passion for music, Berlioz broke away from his father and mother. That was very painful for Berlioz's parents, so they decided to remove all financial support for Berlioz.

Come back next week for Part 2!

 *Written by Book 1 Piano Student.