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date: 22 August 2019

Berlioz, (Louis-)Hectorlocked

  • Hugh Macdonald


(b La Côte-Saint-André, Isère, Dec 11, 1803; d Paris, March 8, 1869).French composer. He stands as the leading musician of his age in a country—France—whose principal artistic endeavour was then literary, and in an art—music—whose principal pioneers were then German. In many senses the Romantic movement found its fullest embodiment in him, yet he had deep Classical roots and stood apart from many manifestations of that movement. His life presents the archetypal tragic struggle of new ideas for acceptance, to which he gave his full exertions as composer, critic and conductor. And though there were many who perceived greatness in his music from the beginning, his genius only came to full recognition in the 20th century.

Louis-Hector Berlioz was the eldest child of Louis-Joseph Berlioz (1776–1848), a doctor of some distinction and a prominent, well-to-do citizen of La Côte-Saint-André, 48 km north-west of Grenoble in the département of Isère. The family had belonged to the region for many generations, and the countryside, especially the grandeur of the Isère plain against its distant background of the Alps, cast a lasting spell on the young composer. His father was a man of liberal outlook and broad intellectual range, an inspiring mentor for his son, and though the dispute over Hector’s career and marriage damaged their relationship for some years, there was a profound bond between them. His mother, Marie-Antoinette (née Marmion), was a Catholic of sharper temper and narrower outlook. Five more children were born, of whom two, Nanci and Adèle, lived to maturity, and enjoyed Berlioz’s permanent affection....

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