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Berlioz: Scenes from the Life and Work

Berlioz: Scenes from the Life and Work

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 267
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  • Book Info
    Berlioz: Scenes from the Life and Work
    Book Description:

    These twelve essays bring new breadth and depth to our knowledge of the life and work of the composer of the Symphonie fantastique. A distinguished international array of scholars here treat such matters as Berlioz's "aesthetics" and what it means to write about the meaning of his music; the political implications of his fiction and the affinities of his projects as composer and as critic; what the Germans thought of his work before his travels in Germany and what the English made of him when he visited their capital city; what he seems to have written immediately after encountering Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (a surprise), and where he profited from Beethoven in what later became Roméo et Juliette. The volume closes with two reflective essays on Berlioz's literary masterpiece, the Mémoires. Contributors: Lord Aberdare (Alastair Bruce), Jean-Pierre Bartoli, Jacques Barzun, Peter Bloom, David Cairns, Gunther Braam, Gérard Condé, Pepijn van Doesburg, Joël-Marie Fauquet, Frank Heidlberger, Hugh Macdonald, and Julian Rushton Peter Bloom (Smith College) is author of The Life of Berlioz (1998) and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Berlioz (2000).

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-716-2
    Subjects: Music, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    P. B.
  4. Note to the Reader
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Berlioz in the Aftermath of the Bicentenary
    (pp. 1-8)
    Peter Bloom

    Despite the excellent intentions of the President of the French Republic, Berlioz’s remains were not removed to the Panthéon, and despite the composer’s own excoriation of the genre, theFestival Berliozat La Côte-Saint-André continued to playarrangements, but as Berlioz’s two-hundredth birthday is succeeded by others less round in number, we continue to savor many fine performances and much good work. The international players arrogated excessive importance neither to themselves nor to their theme: the sort of fetishizing and retrofitting and theologizing of genius not long ago castigated in the lead article of a leading musicological journal nowhere sullied...

  7. Part One: Aesthetic Issues

    • Chapter One The Music in the Music of Berlioz
      (pp. 11-25)
      Jacques Barzun

      Berlioz is the perfect subject for the ultimate purpose of this essay. That purpose is to ascertain the essence of music as an art and the proper way to discuss it. That there should be at this late date a need to find this out is implied in the phrasing of my title. The search for it requires that a number of prevailing ideas about music be examined and compared with those taken for granted about the other arts.

      As a first example, take the recent history of Berlioz’s fame. The celebration of the two hundredth anniversary in 2003 marked...

    • Chapter Two “Artistic Religiosity”: Berlioz Between the Te Deum and L’Enfance du Christ
      (pp. 26-44)
      Frank Heidlberger

      One week after the first performance of histrilogie sacrée,L’Enfance du Christ, on 10 December 1854, Berlioz wrote confidentially to Franz Liszt: “So I have become a good little boy, human, clear, melodic; I am finally writing music like everybody else—the common voice now proclaims! Farewell—the sensation caused by this conversion is growing. Let us allow it to continue to do so.”¹

      This remarkable statement invites a close investigation of the composer’s identity in the later years of his life and career. It is not without sarcasm that he declares himself a “bon enfant” who finally knows...

  8. Part Two: In Fiction and Fact

    • Chapter Three Euphonia and the Utopia of the Orchestra as Society
      (pp. 47-63)
      Joël-Marie Fauquet

      Centropolis, a city in the Republic of Benthamia, is built on the Isthmus of Guatemala. A universal capital, it is home to the Assembly of Nations. Festivals of interplanetary dimension are given here in an outdoor amphitheater. Not only has Nature greatly favored this space for the projection of the voice, but so, too, have the arts.

      On one side we find a sharp wall of rock composed of superposed layers of prismatic basalt, rising to a height of some fifty feet; on the other side, a small, almost perfectly semicircular hill that leads gently down to the base of...

    • Chapter Four Berlioz and the Mezzo-Soprano
      (pp. 64-86)
      Julian Rushton

      We have nothing from Berlioz as memorable as Mozart’s sartorial metaphor.¹ The French composer recognized, no less than other opera composers, that singers were vital to the success of his vocal works. There is no reason to suppose that Berlioz looked on singers, or could afford to look on them, as mere adjuncts to his compositional plans, whose abilities, less open to new technical demands than instrumentalists’, could be bent to his creative will. Indeed, singers may be counted among his friends as well as among the objects of his bile and the butts of his humor. Berlioz is even...

  9. Part Three: Criticizing and Criticized

    • Chapter Five Berlioz as Composer-Critic
      (pp. 89-100)
      Gérard Condé

      In Part II of his essay on Wagner andTannhäuserin Paris, Baudelaire suggests that “it would extraordinary indeed if a critic should become a poet; but it is impossible for a poetnotto be a critic.”¹ Earlier, Étienne Méhul, in the preface to his 1799 operaAriodant, had urged composers, as “repositories of the secrets of their art,” not to remain silent “in the midst of so many discussions in which they are seen now as idols, now as victims.” Already in eighteenth-century Germany, Telemann and Mattheson had taken to writing prose, and they were followed by Abbé...

    • Chapter Six “A Certain Hector Berlioz”: News in Germany about Berlioz in France
      (pp. 101-122)
      Gunther Braam

      Berlioz made his first appearance in a German music newspaper on 6 June 1829;¹ the first German concert review of one of his works came out six months later, on 30 December.² By the mid-eighteen-thirties, information on Berlioz in the pressd’outre-Rhinis no longer rare. How in fact did news about Berlioz find its way from Paris to Germany? This is the subject of the current article, whose purpose is to call attention to important and hitherto little-known or neglected sources of early Berlioz reception in Germany—little-known or neglected in part because they exist in German, and many...

  10. Part Four: The “Dramatic Symphony”

    • Chapter Seven Berlioz’s Lost Roméo et Juliette
      (pp. 125-137)
      Hugh Macdonald

      Berlioz’s third symphonyRoméo et Juliettewas composed in 1839 in response to a gift of twenty thousand francs from Paganini, to whom the work was dedicated. It has always been classed among the handful of his finest works, along withLa Damnation de FaustandLes Troyens, and Berlioz himself retained a special affection for it to the end of his life. As part of the accepted history of the work it is well known that when he sat down to compose in the early months of 1839 this was not the first time he had contemplated music for...

    • Chapter Eight Beethoven, Shakespeare, and Berlioz’s Scène d’amour
      (pp. 138-160)
      Jean-Pierre Bartoli

      For most commentators, theScène d’amourthat constitutes the instrumental Adagio at the heart of Berlioz’sRoméo et Julietteis a faithful illustration and a scrupulous rendering of the dramatic narrative of the balcony scene in Act II, scene ii of Shakespeare’s play. Jacques Chailley, in the nineteen-seventies, was one of the first to present a strictly programmatic exegesis of this movement.

      Chailley began on the basis of the information presented by the chorus in the Prologue, whose text forms an authentic literary “program” that is not presented apart from, but is rather integrated into, the musical fabric itself. As...

  11. Part Five: In Foreign Lands

    • Chapter Nine Germany at First
      (pp. 163-173)
      Pepijn van Doesburg

      Berlioz’s long-anticipated first major trip to Germany—he left Paris on 12 December 1842 and traveled by way of Belgium—did not begin auspiciously. After fruitless attempts in Brussels, Mainz, and Frankfurt, he finally succeeded in giving concerts in Stuttgart on 29 December 1842, and in Hechingen on 2 January 1843 . When he returned to Stuttgart on 3 January, he received a much-awaited letter from his friend Johann Christian Lobe inviting him to come to Weimar.¹ Abandoning or postponing plans to visit Munich, Vienna, and Berlin, Berlioz replied to Lobe on the 6th: “I am leaving tomorrow, Saturday, the...

    • Chapter Ten England and Berlioz
      (pp. 174-198)
      Lord Aberdare and Alastair Bruce

      England seems to have a special affinity with Berlioz. Many leading conductors of Berlioz have been English, from Sir Thomas Beecham to a trio of present-day conductor-knights, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Roger Norrington, and Sir John Eliot Gardiner. So have many scholars and critics, with the result that Berlioz’s standing in England seems higher than in almost any other country. Performances of his works, and not just the best-known ones, have been frequent in England and complemented by an impressive range of publications and events.

      Did this “special relationship” take shape during Berlioz’s lifetime, in the period of his five...

  12. Part Six: An Artist’s Life

    • Chapter Eleven Berlioz Writing the Life of Berlioz
      (pp. 201-220)
      Peter Bloom

      What we might have liked to discover is sex. What we do discover is love. And humor. And truthfulness, elegance, magnanimity, modesty, perceptiveness about himself and others, and countless further virtues that Jacques Barzun well catalogued in his great book of many years ago.¹ But is it not curious that theMémoires—of a man born in the same year as the creator of Carmen, of a man friendly with such connoisseurs of women as Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, and Alexandre Dumaspère et fils, of a man on intimate terms with the greatséducteurwho was Franz Liszt—should...

    • Chapter Twelve Berlioz: Autobiography, Biography
      (pp. 221-234)
      David Cairns

      It was theMemoirs, in the Everyman translation by Katharine Boult, together with the 78 -rpm black-label recording by Jean Planel ofLe Repos de la Sainte Famille, that first kindled my interest in the composer, after a predominantly Germanic musical upbringing which left no room for Berlioz, indeed made his music incomprehensible to me.

      After that my education progressed rapidly. These were the years ofLes Troyensat Covent Garden (1957, 1958, 1960)—the event which, with Jacques Barzun’s equally epoch-makingBerlioz and the Romantic Century, transformed Berlioz’s fortunes and reputation—and of the annual performances by the Chelsea...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 235-238)
  14. Index
    (pp. 239-248)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-254)