Hector Berlioz and the Art of Musical Storytelling

By |2019-12-30T22:23:42-06:00December 30th, 2019|Categories: Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Michael De Sapio, Music|

Music with extra-musical subtexts has existed for a long time, but it was the Romantics who first combined story and music in a close synthesis. Their pioneer was Hector Berlioz, who dove into the art of musical storytelling with a daring never before seen, yet with an artistic integrity rarely achieved since. Berlioz first saw [...]

Hector Berlioz’s Long-Lost “Solemn Mass” for the Holy Innocents

By |2019-12-28T02:25:54-06:00December 27th, 2019|Categories: Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Music, Stephen M. Klugewicz|

"By God, you will be no doctor or apothecary, but a great composer." —Jean-François Le Sueur, to Hector Berlioz, upon hearing the premier of the Messe Solennelle Saint-Roch Church, Paris Its premier in 1825 marked one of the most remarkable musical debuts ever by a composer, and the score's rediscovery 167 years later [...]

Finding Faith in the Manger: Berlioz’s “Infancy of Christ”

By |2019-12-25T02:41:26-06:00December 24th, 2019|Categories: Christmas, Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Music, Timeless Essays|

Could anything as tender and touching as "L’Enfance du Christ" have been written by a man who did not believe? One hopes that professed atheist Hector Berlioz was able to find the Christmas that he portrayed so beautifully. Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords our readers the opportunity to join Robert Reilly, as he [...]

Glory to Dido! The Operas of Hector Berlioz

By |2020-06-16T06:51:51-05:00December 10th, 2019|Categories: Audio/Video, Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Music, Stephen M. Klugewicz|

"They are finally going to play my music." —Hector Berlioz, on his deathbed Though Hector Berlioz's operas are still little known today—even to the opera-going public, who are much more likely to find the dramas of Verdi, Puccini, Bellini, and Mozart on the program—the increasing recognition of their many glories is slowly making them less [...]

Berlioz’s “Te Deum” & Chateaubriand’s “Genius of Christianity”

By |2019-12-10T13:37:19-06:00November 13th, 2019|Categories: Christianity, Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Michael De Sapio, Music|

Hector Berlioz's version of the "Te Deum" surpasses them all in its colossal scale. The French composer has often been accused of bombast, but here the gigantic forces required are completely fitting for this cosmic hymn of praise. “[I]t was enthusiasm itself that inspired the Te Deum...[A]mid clouds of smoke and yet reeking blood, a [...]

The Halloween-ness of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”

By |2020-03-19T17:45:23-05:00October 30th, 2019|Categories: Audio/Video, Halloween, Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series|

It’s October, Halloween is approaching and I am obsessed with Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. Blame it on the title and mood of the symphony’s fifth movement: “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath.” Could any title be more deliciously spooky? It’s this movement, and this symphony, that make classical music people nod in recognition at the sound of Hector Berlioz’s [...]

Berlioz and Shakespeare

By |2020-04-25T21:09:40-05:00August 15th, 2019|Categories: Audio/Video, Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Music, Stephen M. Klugewicz|

From his first experience of "Hamlet" in 1827 to his death in 1869, Hector Berlioz found William Shakespeare's plays to be an ongoing source of almost-divine inspiration for his music. Indeed, Berlioz's love for "the father of artists" led to the creation of what many consider to be his greatest work: the dramatic symphony, "Roméo [...]

Berlioz in Hell: “The Damnation of Faust”

By |2020-03-20T13:02:40-05:00April 18th, 2019|Categories: Audio/Video, Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Stephen M. Klugewicz|

"I consider this to be one of my best works," Hector Berlioz wrote of "The Damnation of Faust." Though the piece's spirit is one of unrelenting melancholy, it features much musical diversity and is kaleidoscopic, even cinematic, in its vision. The listener here again recognizes the stunning modernism of Berlioz and finds himself immersed in [...]

Requiem for Hector Berlioz

By |2020-03-08T01:02:09-06:00March 8th, 2019|Categories: Audio/Video, Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Stephen M. Klugewicz|

"I feel I am dying," Hector Berlioz wrote in one of his last letters. "I no longer believe in anything." Indeed, by 1869, Berlioz was a frustrated man who had long ago given up his Catholic faith and who had largely given up composing. For many years, the limited and intermittent success of his compositions had [...]

Jacques Barzun and Hector Berlioz

By |2019-04-19T00:51:56-05:00February 27th, 2019|Categories: Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, History, Jacques Barzun, Stephen M. Klugewicz|

In his two-volume Berlioz and the Romantic Century, historian Jacques Barzun argued that the much-maligned and misunderstood composer was in fact the dominant cultural figure of his day, “who by will and genius stamped his effigy upon the nineteenth century” and brought “kings, ministers, and public institutions, no less than poets and musicians, under his spell.” Publisher's Note: This essay [...]

Learning to Love Berlioz

By |2020-01-14T15:21:55-06:00February 3rd, 2019|Categories: Audio/Video, Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Music, Stephen M. Klugewicz|

Hector Berlioz relished the spectacular sounds that could be achieved with massive orchestral forces, but he was much more than a musical showman. His gift for melody, his genius for musical drama, his mastery of orchestration, and his bold originality place him in the front rank of the great composers. Today’s offering in our [...]

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