Hector Berlioz

I already talked about Hector Berlioz (1803-69) some five years ago (see here), when I made a number of posts about the Montmartre Cemetery. Yes, that’s where he’s buried. The present tomb replaced an older one in 1970. Twice a widower, Berlioz had both wives buried here. (Berlioz was a frequent visitor to the cemetery; it’s also known that he met a last love, when walking around here.) The portrait of Berlioz was taken from the previous tomb. It was made by Cyprien Godebski (1835-1909), a renowned sculptor (e.g. a monumental work in Warsaw of the Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz.)

Actually Berlioz lived during his last thirteen years quite close to the cemetery, at 4, rue de Calais. The year he moved in seems also to be the year the building was constructed (according to the inscription).

Berlioz was one of the few composers who hadn’t got any early musical training, didn’t play the piano (he learnt the guitar, the flute…). Originally he had commenced to study medicine. He took up music quite late and against the will of his parents. He never became known as an instrumentalist, but of course as composer… and conductor. Obviously his compositions, which were much appreciated by most of his colleagues (Liszt, Wagner…) and often more abroad than in France, didn’t always give him substantial, regular revenues and he also had parallel jobs, more particularly as writer, musical critic, head librarian at the Paris Conservatory… He’s also known for having written “Treatise on Instrumentation” (1844). Rather, his more generally accepted greatness and importance as a composer was achieved later, during the 20th century.

There is a rue Berlioz in Paris, but obviously not linked to a place where he lived. But, at the end of rue de Calais, where he died in 1869, there is a Square Berlioz (see top picture). Here he got a bronze statue in 1886, but as most other metallic statues, it disappeared during the Nazi occupation. It was replaced by the present one – in stone, by George Saupique (1889-1961), in 1948.

Let’s first listen to “Symphonie Fantastique” (5th movement), composed in 1830 (only three years after Beethoven’s death, two years after Schubert’s death…), by many considered to be his most outstanding and revolutionary work and acclaimed by Liszt, Chopin, Paganini, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Heinrich Heine, George Sand… who attended the premiere...

…then to the “Hungarian March” from the “Damnation of Faust”, first performed in 1846, perhaps the most well-known piece by Berlioz…


… and at last to the very patriotic “Marseillaise” in the Berlioz version (1830).


Virginia said...

I have you to thank for the many trips to this cemetery Peter. It remains a favorite. Merci for the music clips. I enjoyed them as always.

Dzjiedzjee said...

You did a great job again Peter. It is always a pleasure to visit your blog. ;-)

Greetings from the Netherlands!
Gert Jan

Jeanie said...

Peter, I loved this post for many reasons -- it reminded me of our visit to Montmartre and of course I remember Berlioz from that day. But also, the details, the music, the Square. It all comes together. Thanks for starting my day out so nicely!

Anonymous said...

Just back from reading your old post "Classical Music" about Berlioz among others.
There's a piece by Fernando Sor that's very beautiful: Variaciones sobre un tema de Mozart? Played by Manitas de Plata I think it was...
Seems M. Berlioz had a very interesting life!

Your photos are "Fantastique" too.
Packing like crazy for my move, I lost my glasses. Temporarily, I hope.
Hope my writing is passable, I can hardly see.

Beautiful post again, M. Peter.
¡Gracias mil!

Anonymous said...

I was listening to the link of that most beautiful national anthem in the entire world.
Actually a war song, right?

The angry, indignated Marsellais marching towards Paris in their sabots and singing it along the way. A defining moment of the Revolution?

Thanks for the link, M. Peter.
I know a pianist who used to play this song for her father.....

Leslie in Oregon said...

Thank you for this wonderful post, M. Peter. It was particularly stirring to read it, and your prior post on Berlioz, while listening to the musical links in the post.

claude said...

Un grand de la grande musique.
Je repasserai car je n'ai pu écouter et voir les deux dernières vidéos.

Thérèse said...

J’ai écouté la Marseilaise avec plaisir,beau rappel.