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Introduction To The Composer | Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz was born on December 11th, 1803 in La Cote St Andre, France.

Berlioz’s father, a provincial French doctor, originally intended for his son to follow in his footsteps and sent him to medical school in Paris. However, according to Berlioz, he was so disturbed by the horrifying scene within the dissecting room that he leaped out of the window and never turned back.

He eventually began studying music, first privately and then at the Paris Conservatoire.

Even though he himself only played the guitar, Berlioz was an outstanding master of orchestration. In 1844, he authored the “Modern Treatise of Instrumentation and of Orchestration”, an important and influential work on the subject of orchestration.

In 1827, while attending a performance of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Berlioz immediately fell in love with both the works of William Shakespeare, and with the Irish actress playing the role of Ophelia, Harriet Smithson. His passionate, impulsive personality led him to compose the extraordinary program symphony, “Symphonie Fantastique” in which “the beloved” is portrayed as a melodic motif. Berlioz called this the idee fixe.

“Les Troyens”, an opera in two parts now regarded as Berlioz’s masterpiece, was initially a huge failure and was not performed in its entirety in French until 1969.

Berlioz spent his final years clouded in depression and ill-health, listening to little music and composing nothing at all. He died on March 8th, 1869 in Paris, France at the age of 65.

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