Hector Berlioz

Biography

Born: 1803   Died: 1869   Country: France   Period: Romantic
Berlioz, the passionate, ardent, irrepressible genius of French Romanticism, left a rich and original oeuvre which exerted a profound influence on nineteenth century music. Berlioz developed a profound affinity toward music and literature as a child. Sent to Paris at 17 to study medicine, he was enchanted by Gluck's operas, firmly deciding to become a composer. With his father's reluctant consent, Berlioz entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1826. Read more His originality was already apparent and disconcerting -- a competition cantata, Cléopâtre (1829), looms as his first sustained masterpiece -- and he won the Prix de Rome in 1830 amid the turmoil of the July Revolution. Meanwhile, a performance of Hamlet in September 1827, with Harriet Smithson as Ophelia, provoked an overwhelming but unrequited passion, whose aftermath may be heard in the Symphonie fantastique (1830).

Returning from Rome, Berlioz organized a concert in 1832, featuring his symphony. Harriet Smithson was in the audience. They were introduced days later and married on October 3, 1833.

Berlioz settled into a career pattern which he maintained for more than a decade, writing reviews, organizing concerts, and composing a series of visionary masterpieces: Harold en Italie (1834), the monumental Requiem (1837), and an opera, Benvenuto Cellini (1838), a crushing fiasco. At year's end, the dying Paganini made Berlioz a gift of 20,000 francs, enabling him to devote nearly a year to the composition of his "dramatic symphony," Roméo et Juliette (1839). And then, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the July Revolution, came the Symphonie funčbre et triomphale (1840).

Iridescently scored, an exquisite collection of six Gautier settings, Les nuits d'été, opened the new decade. This was a difficult time for Berlioz, as his marriage failed to bring him the happiness he desired. Concert tours to Brussels, many German cities, Vienna, Pesth, Prague, and London occupied him through most of the 1840s. He composed La Damnation de Faust, en route, offering the new work to a half-empty house in Paris, December 6, 1846. Expenses were catastrophic, and only a successful concert tour to St. Petersburg saved him.

He sat out the revolutionary upheavals of 1848 in London, returning to Paris in July. The massive Te Deum -- a "little brother" to the Requiem -- was largely composed over 1849, though it would not be heard until 1855. L'Enfance du Christ, scored an immediate and enduring success from its first performance on December 10, 1854. Elected to the Institut de France in 1855, he started receiving a members' stipend, and this provided him with a modicum of financial security. Consequently, Berlioz was able to devote himself to the summa of his career, his vast opera, Les Troyens, based on Virgil's Aeneid, the Roman poet's unfinished epic masterpiece. The opera was completed in 1858. As he negotiated for its performance, he composed a comique adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, which met with a rapturous Baden premičre, on August 9, 1862. Unfortunately, only the third, fourth, and fifth acts of Les Troyens were mounted by the Théatre-Lyrique, a successful premiere, on November 4, 1863, and a run of 21 performances notwithstanding. This lopsided production stemmed from a compromise (bitterly regretted by the composer) that Berlioz had made with the Théâtre-Lyrique.

Though frail and ailing, Berlioz conducted his works in Vienna and Cologne in 1866, traveling to St. Petersburg and Moscow in the winter of 1867-1868. Despondent and tortured by self-doubt, the composer received a triumphant welcome in Russia. Back in Paris in March 1868, he was but a walking shadow as paralysis slowly overcame him. Read less

Work: La damnation de Faust, Op. 24: Rákóczy March

Browse 1-25 of 75 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    The History of Classical Music in 24 Hours
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002403602 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 24
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Pérotin,  Guillaume de Machaut,  John Dunstable  ... 
    Performer:  Konrad Ragossnig,  Charles [Tenor Vocals] Daniels,  Susan Gritton,  Trevor Pinnock  ... 
    Conductor:  Pater Godehard Joppich,  David Munrow,  Josef Ulsamer,  Bruno Turner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Early Music Consort of London,  Ulsamer-Collegium,  Hamburger Bläserkreis für Alte Musik  ... 
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  • 2.
    Verbier Festival: Best Of 2014
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 551695 Release Date: 08/28/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Alexander Scriabin,  Arvo Pärt,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Frédéric Chopin  ... 
    Performer:  Evgeni Kissin,  Sergei Babayan,  Daniil Trifonov,  Jan Lisiecki  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Dutoit,  Gábor Takács-Nagy,  Marc Minkowski,  Daniel Harding
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  • 3.
    Mercury Living Presence - The Collector's Edition Vol 3
    Label: Mercury Living Presence   Catalog: 002275902 Release Date: 03/23/2015   Number of Discs: 53
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Franz Lehár,  Emil Waldteufel,  Johann Strauss Jr.  ... 
    Performer:  Rafael Druian,  Georges Miquelle,  Eugene List,  Alfred Mouledous  ... 
    Conductor:  Antal Doráti,  Stanislaw Skrowaczewski,  Frederick Fennell,  Anatole Fistoulari  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Hungarica  ... 
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  • 4.
    Claudio Abbado New Years Eve Concerts Box [3 Blu-rays]
    Label: Euroarts   Catalog: 2013504 Release Date: 01/27/2015   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Georges Bizet,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Pablo de Sarasate,  Maurice Ravel  ... 
    Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter,  Bryn Terfel,  Roberto Alagna,  Mikhail Pletnev  ... 
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Swedish Radio Chorus
    Blu-ray Video: $88.99
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  • 5.
    100 Classical Masterworks
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002188102 Release Date: 01/06/2015   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Richard Strauss,  Edvard Grieg,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Lorin Maazel,  Neeme Järvi,  Herbert von Karajan,  Carlo Maria Giulini  ... 
    Conductor:  Lorin Maazel,  Neeme Järvi,  Herbert von Karajan,  Carlo Maria Giulini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bolshoi Theater Violin Ensemble,  Ansbach Bach Week Soloists Union,  Salzburg Mozarteum Camerata Academica  ... 
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  • 6.
    Leonard Bernstein Edition - Concertos & Orchestral Works
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 301330 Release Date: 10/27/2014   Number of Discs: 80
    Composer:  Samuel Barber,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Antonio Vivaldi,  Béla Bartók  ... 
    Performer:  Isaac Stern,  Leonard Bernstein,  Harold Gomberg,  William Heim  ... 
    Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein,  Seiji Ozawa,  Maurice Peress
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  New York Philharmonic members,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 7.
    Ferenc Fricsay: Complete DG Recordings, Vol 1 - Orchestral Works
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002132602 Release Date: 09/02/2014   Number of Discs: 45
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  César Franck  ... 
    Performer:  Géza Anda,  Tibor Varga,  Helmut Krebs,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau  ... 
    Conductor:  Ferenc Fricsay
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 8.
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 1158847 Release Date: 07/15/2014   Number of Discs: 7
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Maurice Ravel,  Georges Bizet,  Emmanuel Chabrier  ... 
    Performer:  Karlheinz Zöller
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  • 9.
    Karajan: Orchestra Spectaculars From Handel To Bartok
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 633621 Release Date: 05/27/2014   Number of Discs: 13
    Composer:  Jean Sibelius,  Benjamin Britten,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  George Frideric Handel  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 10.
    BBC Legends - Great Recordings from the Archive
    Label: Ica Classics   Catalog: 5113 Release Date: 10/29/2013   Number of Discs: 20
    Composer:  Gustav Mahler,  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Robert Schumann,  Johann Sebastian Bach  ... 
    Performer:  Beryl Hatt,  Agnes Giebel,  Joyce Barker,  Kerstin Meyer  ... 
    Conductor:  Jascha Horenstein,  Yevgeny Mravinsky,  Arturo Toscanini,  Kiril Kondrashin  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Orpington Junior Singers,  Goldsmiths' Choral Union  ... 
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  • 11.
    Best Of Pops / Arthur Fiedler, Boston Pops Orchestra
    Label: Dynamic   Catalog: 3580 Release Date: 07/02/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Jacob Gade,  Leroy Anderson,  Victor Young,  Meredith Willson  ... 
    Conductor:  Arthur Fiedler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Pops
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  • 12.
    Monumental Karajan!
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 232892 Release Date: 01/22/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Franz Schubert,  Johannes Brahms,  Richard Wagner,  Antonín Dvorák  ... 
    Performer:  Karlheinz Zöller
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
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  • 13.
    Essential Encores
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 05149 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Antonio Bazzini,  Niccolň Paganini,  Fritz Kreisler,  Jules Massenet  ... 
    Performer:  Vag Papian,  Maxim Vengerov,  Michael Rabin,  John Lenehan  ... 
    Conductor:  Wolfgang Sawallisch,  Rudolf Kempe,  Sir Thomas Beecham,  Mariss Jansons  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Virtuosi,  Nash Ensemble
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  • 14.
    Journey Around The World
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 55476 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mexican Anonymous,  Arthur Benjamin,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Alexander Borodin  ... 
    Performer:  Gabriela Montero,  Larry Adler,  Jean-Yves Thibaudet,  Truls Otterbech Mork  ... 
    Conductor:  Eric Robinson,  André Cluytens,  Herbert von Karajan,  Sir Neville Marriner  ... 
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  • 15.
    The Very Best Of Herbert Von Karajan
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 6789922 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Antonín Dvorák,  Jean Sibelius,  Richard Strauss  ... 
    Performer:  Mstislav Rostropovich,  Alexis Weissenberg,  Gidon Kremer,  James Galway  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
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  • 16.
    50 Best Berliner Philharmoniker
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 48465 Release Date: 04/19/2011   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Carl Orff,  Claude Debussy,  Hector Berlioz,  Antonín Dvorák  ... 
    Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin,  Leif Ove Andsnes,  Anne-Sophie Mutter,  Mstislav Rostropovich  ... 
    Conductor:  Simon Rattle,  Herbert von Karajan,  Rudolf Kempe,  Mariss Jansons  ... 
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  • 17.
    Glinka, Ponchielli, Berlioz: Overtures, Marches & Dances / Simonov
    Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks   Catalog: 28350 Release Date: 08/10/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Mikhail Glinka,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Ambroise Thomas,  Carl Maria von Weber  ... 
    Conductor:  Yuri Simonov
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 18.
    The Classic Sound - Ibert: Divertissement; Et Al / Martinon
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 448571 Release Date: 06/25/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jacques Ibert,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Georges Bizet,  Hector Berlioz
    Conductor:  Jean Martinon
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris
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  • 19.
    Pierre Monteux Edition Vol 2 - Berlioz / San Francisco
    Label: Rca Victor Gold Seal   Catalog: 61894 Release Date: 05/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz
    Conductor:  Pierre Monteux
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
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  • 20.
    Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, Overtures / Mackerras, Simonov
    Label: Musical Concepts   Catalog: 1064 Release Date: 01/26/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz
    Conductor:  Yuri Simonov,  Sir Charles Mackerras,  Sir Alexander Gibson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 21.
    Berlioz: La Damnation De Faust Highlights / Solti, Riegel, Von Stade
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 410181 Release Date: 01/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz
    Performer:  José Van Dam,  Kenneth Riegel,  Frederica Von Stade
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Chorus,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra
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  • 22.
    Wild: Compositions & Transcriptions / Earl Wild
    Label: Ivory Classics   Catalog: 79003 Release Date: 01/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Earl Wild,  Hector Berlioz
    Performer:  Earl Wild
    Conductor:  Earl Wild,  Joseph Giunta
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  NBC Radio Orchestra,  Des Moines Symphony Orchestra
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  • 23.
    Pomp & Circumstance - Magnificent Marches
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 411954 Release Date: 12/29/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz,  Sir Edward Elgar,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Giacomo Meyerbeer  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti,  Christoph von Dohnányi,  Richard Bonynge,  Walter Weller  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 24.
    Berlioz: Harold En Italie / Sylvain Camberling, Et Al
    Label: Swr Music   Catalog: 93241 Release Date: 10/13/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Hector Berlioz
    Performer:  Jean-Eric Soucy
    Conductor:  Sylvain Cambreling
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baden-Baden Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Sw German Radio Symphony Orchestra Baden Baden
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  • 25.
    Best Encores 100
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 64752 Release Date: 02/24/2009   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Alexander Goedicke,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Teodor Grigoriu,  Ernesto De Curtis  ... 
    Performer:  Ole Edvard Antonsen,  Wolfgang Sawallisch,  Placido Domingo,  Cheryl Studer  ... 
    Conductor:  John Barker,  Asher Fisch,  Sir Andrew Davis,  Franz Welser-Möst  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  National Theater Opera Orchestra of Paris  ... 
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