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Thread: Hector Berlioz (1803-69)

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    Hector Berlioz (1803-69)

    Hector Berlioz (1803-69)

    Brilliant French composer, largely self-taught, innovator and one of the most passionate musicians of the 19th century. Best known for his early ‘Symphonie Fantastique’ and for a series of later huge but largely ignored operas at the time, including ‘The Trojans‘ and ‘The Damnation of Faust‘. He was a medical student who gave up studies in Paris to follow music - this against resistance from his family. His personal life was hard and he wrote of it in a famous autobiography. He also wrote a valuable book on musical orchestration and liked to use huge forces for many of his major works. A great and early admirer of Beethoven in France. His musical style is unique and his best works are today recognised to be amongst the greatest ever written. Amongst his many innovations he was first to write an orchestrated song cycle. And first to employ more than 1,000 musicians in a single concert.

    Berlioz was one of the natural talents of musical history whose greatest works are powerful, touching and always uniquely his own.

    1/5

    Hector Berlioz (1803-69)
    ‘L’Adieu des Bergers’ (The Shepherd’s Farewell)
    From
    ‘L’Enfance du Christ’ (The Childhood of Christ)
    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    BBC Chorus

    http://www.**************/?lrxodoye5tw
    Last edited by Robert Newman; Dec-09-2008 at 18:37.

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    Hector Berlioz
    Overture 'Le Corsaire' (1851), Op. 21
    London Symphony Orchestra
    Sir Colin Davis
    Philips

    http://www.**************/?n0zyzyizdn3

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    An early work of Berlioz, the song cycle, 'Nuits d'Ete' - from which comes this highly passionate song. This was a work much hated by music critics of the time in shattering the comfortable idea of a 'nice song' being sung to audiences and offered instead a new and highly personalised, even autobiographical approach to stage music. Berlioz deliberately took hold of classical music as it then existed 'by the scruff of the neck' in all his stage music from this time onwards and transformed it into something new. His musical career was dogged by indifference and criticism towards his many great operatic efforts, this situation only being reversed at the very end of his life.

    (Janet Baker was associated with this song throughout her own brilliant career) -

    Hector Berlioz
    'Nuits d'Ete' (Summer Nights)
    Song - 'Le Spectre de la Rose' (The spectre of the rose)
    Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Live Performance
    Soloist - Janet Baker - Mezzo Soprano
    1972

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=kJzvqX_phcE
    Last edited by Robert Newman; Dec-11-2008 at 13:41.

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    4a/5

    Hector Berlioz
    'Romeo and Juliette'
    Excerpt
    Choreography - Maurice Bejart
    Dancers - Suzanne Farrell, Jorge Donn

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=SWzBy3uYjwI

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    From one of several Berlioz masterpieces, his huge opera, 'Les Troyens'.

    Hector Berlioz
    Opera 'Les Troyens' (The Trojans)
    Grand Duet

    Gregory Kunde tenor
    Susan Graham soprano

    'Do you want to know what keeps me going, Sir ? - if nobody likes my stuff ? Promise me not to laugh or take advantage of my weakness, which I confess is also my strength - Music, Sir ! Music ! There ! Have I not said it all ?'

    (Hector Berlioz)

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=BYWjS9...eature=related
    Last edited by Robert Newman; Dec-11-2008 at 16:59.

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    ‘Beatrice and Benedict’ - an opera in 2 acts by Hector Berlioz. Besides its music the libretto was also written by him and is based loosely on Shakespeare’s, ’Much Ado about Nothing’. Premiered to unexpected acclaim in Germany in 1862 it had 6 performances in the composer’s lifetime. ‘I was overwhelmed by all sorts of kind attention’, he wrote in his memoirs. This success marked a turning point in public reaction to his music but it was his last opera.

    This great work is rarely performed and has never become part of the standard operatic repertoire.

    Here’s the Overture -

    Hector Berlioz
    Overture to ‘Beatrice et Benedict’ (1862)
    London Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor - Andre Previn
    Double Forte

    http://www.**************/?l3zwnztztm2

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    5b

    Hector Berlioz
    Opera
    'La damnation de Faust' (Opera)
    Aria
    'D'amour l'ardente flamme'
    Soloist - Susan Graham
    Live Performance - Brussels 2002
    Conductor - Antonio Pappano

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=sGn0UR...eature=related


    l
    Last edited by Robert Newman; Dec-12-2008 at 16:46.

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    Admiral Maestoso marval's Avatar
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    Hi Robert,

    Thank you for sharing this music. I have to say that Berlioz is not my favourite, but I think it is time I had a good listen. You never know I might come to enjoy it more with perseverance.


    Margaret

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    Hi Margaret,

    I really thought the same till quite recently. I'd read many statements by others and assumed the music of Berlioz was bombastic, crude and frankly not worth close attention. Such was the verdict of many critics in his own time and even in to modern times. But a friend of mine in London (a good singer) had sung some of it and introduced me to some of his things over a year or so. I steadily changed my view. Overtures and later operas. It is really often quite wonderful. Always original. Passionate. And now I like it so much. Some of his works are exquisitely beautiful. He's a tremendous composer. Today his works are becoming very well liked. His operas are now performed more and more in Europe. Perhaps he did more to introduce modern music practice than almost anyone in the 19th century. Hugely innovative. He really believed in moving people. And was highly romantic in everything he did. His life story is also amazing.

    What an artist he was !!! Really, I can't speak too highly of him as a musician. And all of this done within a few decades of Beethoven's death. I will post some more soon.

    Regards

    Robert
    Last edited by Robert Newman; Dec-12-2008 at 19:56.

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    Here's an interesting short article by Sir Colin Davis on Berlioz's 'L'enfance du Christ' - also describing his talent and his career.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7-m9NNzsEA

  11. #11
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    I run hot and cold on Berlioz. I love his operas - especially Les Troyens - and other vocal works, though I find the Requiem a bit overwrought. Sometimes his music isn't as finely crafted or orderly as others', but it's always inventive. Oh, Benvenuto Cellini is another work to try to hear, for those who haven't.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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    Hi there Todd,

    I know what you mean. To me, he's virtually the equivalent in music of Vincent van Gough to modern painting. Hugely innovative. Brave. Tender, passionate and almost always on the other side of mainstream acceptability. Almost never popular but hugely determined. There is certainly some clumsiness, even ugliness, in some of his work. But this is more than offset by his sheer originality and by great things in other works of his.

    I agree with what you say about his Requiem and a number of other works. But in his operas, these alone are marvellous, for sure. As for weaknesses one can of course say the same of virtually any other composer. Berlioz was almost singlehandedly daring to bring music free from the sound world of the classical composers who had influenced him most - and this decades before others of the 19th century. The more I listen to his great stage works the more marvellous they seem to me. Sheer originality, power and tenderness. His masterpieces are these great operas, for sure. To hear them is such a privilege. From beginning to end.
    Last edited by Robert Newman; Dec-12-2008 at 22:59.

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