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

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