The leading French composer of the nineteenth century, and a great conductor, music writer, and orchestrator. He was successor to Beethoven as high priest of the Romantic style. All his works are passionate and personal, though in his own lifetime they were not appreciated enough.

His single best-known work is the Symphonie fantastique of 1830, when he had fallen in love with the Irish actor Harriet Smithson, having seen her as Ophelia and thus also discovered one of his other great loves, Shakespeare; and when he had finally won the Prix de Rome, the prize by which young composers were allowed to live and work in Rome.

His greatest opera is the epic Les Troyens, based on the Aeneid; others are Benvenuto Cellini and Beatrice and Benedict. His standalone overtures, such as Les Francs-juges, Roman Carnival, Rob Roy, Waverley, and King Lear are also very popular.

He wrote a Requiem, a Te Deum, choral works L'Enfance du Christ and La Damnation de Faust, and the extraordinary Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale (to commemorate the July Revolution). These show his characteristic full use of lots of brass, and plentiful work for choirs.

Other works include the viola concerto Harold in Italy, based on Byron, and written for Paganini, who had given Berlioz a generous sum to free him to compose, but who however at first rejected the concerto as too difficult. Another symphony with vocals was Romeo and Juliet; Lélio was a sequel to the Symphonie fantastique; and he wrote a song cycle called Nuits d'été.

He expanded the orchestra that Beethoven used, and the modern assemblage is sometimes known as the Berlioz orchestra. I'm no musician so for technical details I'll quote a to-me incomprehensible passage from Grove:

Though Berlioz's compositional style has long been considered idiosyncratic, it can be seen to rely on an abundance of both technique and inspiration. Typical are expansive melodies of irregular phrase length, sometimes with a slight chromatic inflection, and expressive though not tonally adventurous harmonies. Freely contrapuntal textures predominate, used to a variety of fine effects including superimposition of separate themes; a striking boldness in rhythmic articulation gives the music much of its vitality.
Louis-Hector Berlioz was born in Côte-Saint-André in the Isère on 11 December 1803. His father destined him for medicine, which he studied for a short time, but he resisted his parents and preferred his musical studies. He went to the Conservatoire in 1826 and entered for the Prix de Rome four times. After winning it he returned to Paris in 1832.

Although he had fallen in love with Harriet Smithson seeing her on stage, it was only now that he met her. They married in October 1833: it was not alas a happy marriage, despite the romantic beginning; they separated in 1842 and she died, mentally unbalanced, in 1854. This enabled him to marry his partner, the singer Marie Recio. She died in 1862, his and Harriet's son Louis died in 1867, and Berlioz died in Paris on 8 March 1869.

Much of his life and his attitudes to music are documented in his eminently readable Memoirs. He also wrote a treatise on instrumentation. Because his music was not popular, a lot of his income came from journalism, and he was a champion of a number of other great musicians. He travelled widely in his conducting duties, from England to Hungary to Russia. He was enthusiastic for literature: the influence of Shakespeare, Virgil, Byron, and Scott is very evident.

Persistence Pays
(1803 - 1869)
Pampered Beginnings

Louis-Hector Berlioz was born on the 11th of December -- a month they called Frimaire -- since it was in 1803 in the unbelievably picturesque petite ville of Côte-Sainte-André within the French Republic. He was born to a wealthy doctor, whose popularity amongst the people was fostered by his zeal for care for patients, no matter their station, foregoing greed for francs; and who also was an able, if not overly protective "homeschooler" in languages, history, literature, and geography. Berlioz reminisced later concerning this being sheltered for 25 years from the real world: one for which he yearned, but experienced only in written stories and maps.

The 12 year old's almost rote study of Greek classics, such as Vergil's and Horace's was a thankless task excepting Dido's emotional work that echoed Hector's hot heart. This budding passion bloomed in the summers at his Grandfather Marmion's, where even the visiting Uncle Félix's war stories couldn't outdo his love for an 18 year old, Estelle Gautier. How synchronicity, that also at this time that he read a love fantasy over and over titled: Estelle et Némorin that he borrowed from his father; and even though she was just a tease, as he, with a broken heart found out, he found none other that could cast a shadow over that infatuation. Fortunately for us, he was injected at this time with his need to compose music, which also coincided at this time with his initial love of the Church.

Musical Instruction

He learned to play the air, Marlborough on flageolet, his father taught him flute in 28 weeks, but finally for violin enlisted Imbert from Lyons playing Drouet's Complicated Concertos.

His youthful desires, spurred and spurned with naivety and potency drove him, after mastering harmony in Rameau's treatise while playing Pleyel's quartets, to write a sextet mélange of thèmes Italien, a quintet for flute, viola, violin and bass-viol. One other minor keyed depressed sad quintet was too difficult for other to play. He then was taught guitar by the Alsatian, Durant, master of all instruments, who finally told the boy's father, "I can not give your son any more guitar lessons." The reason being that Berlioz could play as well as the mentor.

Ironically, even though he mastered the flageolet, flute and guitar, which he received a diploma for, he lamented like Hayden, he had never learned piano. His father, meanwhile preferred his son's following his medical footsteps, the real reason for the study of classical Greek and Latin, and studies in History Literature and Geography. He graduated at 18 from the seminary La Côte, but his favorite studies were those of Christophe Willibald Gluck and Franz Joseph Hayden who he dreamed of emulating, not Hippocrates.

Medical Scales or Musical Scales

Cadavers or Cantatas

In 1822 while he was first terrified in the dissection room, soon became the brave student. However, after he saw Antonio Salieri's opera, Daughters of Danaus he continually daydreamed of music amongst his bones and cadavers at his understudy at Hôpital La Pitié. His career promise to his father became increasingly difficult to keep as in another week he heard his nostalgic Nina played on Dalayrae's French Horn. Instead of cramming Latin names of body parts, he was in the music Conservatoire studying the body of Gluck's work, and inspired by that artist's Iphigé.

He now began, even in his musical "rustiness, " a orchestral cantata, and in his library time, attracted the attention of a Geromo, pupil of Professor Lesueur purported to be the first writer of "program-music."

Unofficial Teacher's Pet

The introduced teacher looked over this work of Berlioz's: The Arab Horse, but it was not until Geromo helped Berlioz's skills, that he took him under his wing. Lesueur shared his "Masses," and philosophies at, and after, respectively, the Royal Sunday services at the Tuileries (attended by King Charles X.) These "strange bedfellows" had Gluck, Vergil, and Napoleon in common, but looming over Berlioz's shoulders were parents that were going to cut him off (especially when his Mass performed poorly at Saint Roch). Fortunately a letter from the professor was the edge he needed while arguing at La Côte for two months, and in 1825 he returned to Paris for music not medicine

Trying to Make it On his Own Self Imposed Poverty

In 1825 he went to reworking his Mass, and needed money to get it officially promoted, so he borrowed money from a noble acquaintance, Augustin de Pons (when he was refused at Chateaubriand). Now, Berlioz had to leave his "uptown" "digs" and give music lessons to repay, becoming the proverbial starving artist; but, Pons, after getting half his 1200 crowns, snitched to Doctor Berlioz, who, after paying the usurious lad, withheld his son from any further allowance.

Weber's Der Freischütz somehow, in spite of the poor French translation, inspired (and even though he almost met the composer just before his death) the determined Hector to try for the coveted Prix de Rome. But, because he was only tutored on the side by Lesueur, he was eliminated from the competition; and what was worse, he had to go home to his father to argue even harder, where he was winning, -- alas, his mother now was adamantly opposed (remembered by Berlioz as begging, then cursing him) concerning his professional divergence.

School and a Part Time Job

This year in Paris, enrolled now officially at the Conservatoire, he befriended a Monarchist Catholic, Ferrand (though Berlioz was moving to the "left" in government and theology). Ferrand's Byron inspired poetry concerning the Greek Revolution, and another, Les Francs-Juges Hector set to music. Now, he studied, fugues and counterpoint (under protest) with an ally of Beethoven: Reicha; as well as mastering composition with Lesueur. By 1826 he lived the frugal bachelor life with his pharmacist room-mate, not wanting handouts from Maman and Papa; even saving enough to buy a piano, working secretly in a vaudeville chorus near the Bourse. (He'd actually considered theater in New York City, Mexico City, and even China!)

Spring, the next year, he set to work studing at the Opéra and writing Gluck and Spontini styled compositions, but the piano player was to blame (not able to master the difficulty of the lyrical piece) for the thumbs down by Lesueur, Cherubini, Paer, and Boïeldieu at the Prix de Rome. Down, but not out, Berlioz months later directed a Mass at Saint Eustache written, as he left in an epistle, 30 times more arduous, and the judges were all invited to hear the piece executed correctly -- featuring a multifaceted horn ensemble.

Shakespeare Comes to Town

By 1828 an English Shakespeare company, with actor Charles Kemble, and actress Harriet Smithson brought a relatively unknown product to the Odéon. The audience included writers Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Alfred Victor de Vigney along with Hector Berlioz who were stunned, transformed and inspired as the English language challenged composer noted:

Shakespeare unexpectedly coming upon me, struck me as by lightning; its flash, opening to me the heaven of art with a sublime crash, illuminated for me its most distant profundities. I recognized the true grandeur, the true beauty, the real truth, of the drama. I saw -- I comprehended -- I felt that I was a living being, and that I must arise and walk.

He now added Shakespeare to his must list, comprised of: Vergil (always on his person), Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Tom Moore, James Fenimore Cooper, Gluck, and Beethoven. Thousands were turned away and the masses that attended festooned flowers appreciating the production: one that Charles X, and the Duchess de Berri enjoyed so much that they showered the Irish actress with exorbitant gifts.

Musical Passion Transferred

Hector was not only enamored with just Shakespeare, but also Miss Smithson; as seen in her portrayal of Juliet that made him gush (even though later futilely denied): "I will marry this woman, and I will write my greatest symphony on this drama." After seeing her in Hamlet, he could not bear the agony of his infatuation, and boycotted the other shows. This cure was to have the opposite effect: instead of working he caroused through Paris until he collapsed at the Plain of Saint-Ouen as witnessed by Liszt and Chopin. Fortunately Beethoven's tour in 1828 playing such works as Heroic Symphony at the Conservatory fibrillated his career, as now he was going to create for his objêt d'amour original works for a concert.

Shooting Star

Hopeless Love's Inspiration

He converted to an overture, his scrapped opera Les Franc-Juges, he had some scores from La Scèe Grecque, he replaced the almost impossible (as admitted by Berlioz) Death of Orpheus with his Mass's Resurrexit; and this was presented becoming a smashing success, making him an overnight star like a musical Byron. His fame did not erase his despondency induced by his romantic fantasy unrequited. He composed in fits, but managed to share second prize of the Prix de Rome with a Lesueur protegé and lost top honors to a comrade. After writing The Damnation of Faust based on the Goethe masterpiece translated by Gé de Nerval, he fell deep into another "funk' when learning of his chimeric love, Miss Smithson's leaving for Bordeaux.

Insistent to impress the Irish Lady, he culled ideas from Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies to set to music. He wrote an oratorio, as well as reworked the Les Franc-Juges again, and the only response from her was a solitary negative one; still had not convinced him to give it up.

Musically Independently Stubborn

It was again time for the yearly obsession, the Prix de Rome, and, although knowing the tastes of the judges, his unique creative juices were tapped fully open. It was an extremely tough committee as his entry from The Death of Cleopatra did not win, place or show. Two other contestants won the only prize: a divided second award.

Success Costs

That summer he got to work, so by October of 1828 he was able to put on an expensive, but honored with ovations, concert with an hundred and ten musicians directed by Habeneck. He included many of his own compositions to the Hiller played Beethoven piano-concerto such as an overture to the seemingly ever present Francs-Juges, Waverly and some from his Faust.

He was still in debt after earning 550 francs, as he owed money for the royalties to the Irish Moore, and his tutoring was insufficient. He hated doing the mercenary work of proofing Rossini's "crescendo" filledWilliam Tell. He especially became irritated when he learned Miss Smithson's London tenure was one of super stardom, but vented his feelings artistically in Symphonie Fantastique, the "Episode from the Life of an Artist."

Heard it through the Grapevine

He received news that there was a "frightful truth" concerning some libelous report concerning his Miss Smithson and "freaking out" he left Paris wandering throughout the countryside not eating or sleeping until he "crashed." Fortunately after his "bumming out" over "Juliet" also called "Ophelia" he met another (ironically when shy Hiller wanted Hector to "break the ice" for him): the German and Belgian Marie-Félicité-Dénise Moke. This "Camille" was desired by the pianist Hiller, and this lady friend of Thalberg and Liszt was almost monopolized by Berlioz, but for the mother's despising.

The Prix and the Prize

The only thing that stopped him after one rehearsal from presenting a vindictive piece incorporated in his Fantistique was not the 400 francs, but the Prix de Rome was almost due again. This time he won it, and the love of his "Ariel," Mlle. Moke, but, it necessitated his leaving Paris, where his obsession really was, for Rome to perform the obligatory concerto. But before he left one of his concerts was performed in so impotent a manner that his fans left "scratching their heads" wondering where the expected cacophony went. Also along with The Ball and The March to Execution, was Symphony Fantastique's The Witches' Sabbath aimed at his own old immolating flame, "wretched Smithson", the dig unbeknownst to her in Paris while playing Fenella in La Muette de Portici.

Ruins and Ruin in Rome

Mendelssohn as Tour Guide

Even though Felix Mendelssohn wrote less than admirable traits about Hector, these "opposites attract" became their bond while playing Beethoven and Gluck, touring the famous ruins and arguing against Felix's Lutheran leanings. They hung out at the Café Greco, with Hector appearing bigger than life with his piercing eyes, and nose, and wild blonde mane. As if there was some pattern set in his life, as soon as he was up, he was to receive bad news, this time the "Përe la Joie" (as his friends sarcastically called the despondent Hector) heard his "vrai" woman was "messin' 'roun'." He did not even get past Florence, detained with chronic hoarseness and fever, when he received a letter announcing that Camille Pleyel was going to marry his fiancé!

The Butler Chambermaid Did It

In a scene that is more bizarre than Faust or Alfred Hitchcock Presents pure insanity takes hold of 'pauvre' jilted Berlioz so strongly that he actually plays the "Mrs. Doubtfire": the chambermaid schizoid -- crossed with Mr. Bates' mother -- out to kill all in the lover's triangle. Fortunately while in Genoa awaiting a replacement disguise, his almost deadly baptism in the Mediterranean was enough to cool off his strangeness after he was fished out "" a salmon" and sun-dried out on the docks. He finally used poor Hiller to send back her trinkets, and strove for his revenge in a thin caricature of them called: Euphonia while brutally critiquing her laureate performance in hisLes Débats. His two sister's dependence on him prompted his survival, and he began to enjoy the semi tropics of Genoa, and composed the overture to King Lear and on an unhurried return to Paris he worked on Lélio added to his Fantastique, where now his almost fatal depression and resurrection could be emoted.

Working Roman Holiday

He realized his creative destiny and energies were not being inspired by the sopranos in the "Eternal City" and he was getting too lazy in the outskirts of Tivoli, so he plugged the "evaporation of heart, senses, brain, nervous fluid" with work, one important piece being Rob Roy and a multiple orchestral "surround sound" oratorio The Last Day of the World among other works. He was supposed to return to Paris for his sister's marriage (and supply his parent's hope for his same state) when one of Rome's cupids shot him full of love for another "fair Ariel," Miss Vernets and he lingered reading and writing at La Cëte for a third of a year.

City of Lights (Out Please)

The Star? of the Show

Irony never seems to evade Hector Berlioz as meanwhile back in Paris, where he presented in grand concert his Episode from the Life of an Artist and Lélio, the infamous Miss Smithson was watching the parody of herself while in a private box. His earlier portent in Naples of a black crow traveling towards England came true when she requested his visit, in spite of her family's "thumbs down" on their relationship. He became the 'arriviste' when his "Juliet," recently beset with a variety of bad luck broke her leg (I guess someone forgot to tell her "break a leg" before her benefit by nursing her like a bird with a broken wing and paying all her bills (that were accrued even before this incident).

Now that he had her close by he could really enact his most bizarre and self pitying 'soap' operas ever -- Now, based on facts; recreated from my imagination:

A Play in Four Obscenes

Scene I

HECTOR:    If I cannot have your love I shall float my very being away on this babbling brook of Laudanum.

HARRIET:     I should not think any man that can un-flatterer me so in presentations to all the music-going world would care that much!

(Hector cries a bit, and then in an exaggerated gesture takes the bottle to his lips, and seeing her doubting eyes, downs the whole contents.)

HARRIET:    No, No, No, what have you done? Of course I care for you! Yes, I'll marry you. But, what are we going to do, now that you've put yourself on a one way ticket down the River Styx?

Scene II

(Hector, also the director of this tragedy, pulls out another bottle, this time with ipecacuanha and he swallows the emetic that will purge him of this predicament.

Scene III

(The scene opens at the English Embassy in Paris, on October 3, the year is 1833)

(There is a marriage ceremony; there is prophecy fulfilled.)

BOTH   I do.

(The scene changes to Vincennes for the honeymoon; ooh la la {We can't go there.})

Scene IV

(Back in Paris)/p> HARRIET:     Çe Damage....You know I have nothing but a ± 100, uh --14000 francs!

HECTOR:    Pas de Problême...I have borrowed 300 francs.

(The play ends with Hector stuck with the debts, including new ones with their "sweetest and loveliest baby" Louis; and he is the only source of income as Mme. Smithson is now "ole school" in Paris.)

The End


(at least this season)

Critical Fame

In 1835 Berlioz started a side career, (while still composing) that lasted 20 years: musical criticism, and like Schumann, could make or break you, writing in Journal des Débats. His Juges was getting praise in Leipzig, and while Schumann's opinions were favorable, Mendelssohn was rather unkind calling parts of the music "...screeching...March cats." But during this part of Hector's creativity he produced two memorable pieces, Harold in Italy and his favorite, Messe des Morts (or Requiem). But, he wanted to write the great opera.

Tragic Opera -- Too Close to Home

He proceeded to write a story of Benvenuto Cellini, a colorful character complete with guitar and musket, and it's September debut in 1838 looked good until the overture was finished, and the rude reaction made subsequent showings lose more money. Hector was not only down emotionally, but was in serious financial straits, as well. Fortunately a second of two benefit concerts (for himself) in December was loved by the visiting Paganini, whose published praise of Harold in Italy helped Berlioz immensely. He now delved into a symphony: Romeo and Juliet to honor of his famous fan who some say was merely "kissing up" for his own self aggrandizement.

France's Recognition

Berlioz was granted the Cross of the Legion of Honor probably due to this last work. By 1840 his country commissioned him to write a tribute to "July Days" victims which resulted in: Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale. And when his next work in 1841, a musical adaptation of Invitation to the Dance by Weber was presented, he met Glinka at the performance. While he was working on perfecting the opera Der Freischïtz he learned that Hamburg raved at his Les Frances-Juges, and St. Petersburg was agog over Requiem. But, these were times where all recognition was not so upbeat. He was hounded by his contemporary versions of the tattle-tale tabloids that are so nagging for the famous today. Not unlike today, was the truth behind the scandals: the spotlighted couples' public fighting, her drunken outbursts, and his abandonment of their home. He saw that maybe he could escape his doldrums abroad.

On the Road Again (Or Hit the Road Jack)

After leaving the wife a goodbye letter, he surreptitiously headed on his "dream quest" in 1842 starting with Belgium, through Leipzig, where Mendelssohn gave him a Cooper inspired tomahawk (from a correspondence to Felix ranting about being warriors for the Great Spirit at the lodge). He was homesick hoping for Parisian triumph, but the ovations in Austria and Bohemia kept him traveling, and at Prag, Hungary he wowed them with his arrangement of Réoczy's Hungarian March. He started to work while here on his masterpiece, The Damnation of Faust.

A Prophet Composer Not Welcome In His Own Home


On the way back to Paris, in Budapest and Breslau, he worked bits and pieces of his Faust; and even while back in his hometown he would continue to work on it while walking in the famous gardens or like Schubert, in a café. He was ready to enjoy Paris' reception of all his work, and he gladly paid the 16000 francs to hire the Opéra Comique's performers for his presentation in December of 1846. His 400 loyal fans were not enough to sway the non-attending public, and the critics added to the erosion. Though Glinka, and various other countries' admirers spoke highly, one example of former friends' cruelty was Chopin's indictment of Berlioz's 'chancy' 'willed' compositions.

To Russia With Love

In 1847 he made it to St. Petersburg at Glinka's invite on borrowed funds, but he was able to raise 18000 francs before returning to Paris. Here, he was supposed to get a directorship of the Académie de Musique, but after the wind was taken out of those sails during muddled negotiations, he accepted what was supposed to be a ten years position running the Grand Opera at London's Drury Lane Theater. While he could not fix the disrepair of that company, he managed to become well liked during his eight month in England doing what he knew best, giving concerts. He felt like an exile when the French Revolution of 1848 occurred, he could sense the rotting stagnation of French beaux arts. When he finally returned to Paris, the sadness of his father's recent passing was made even more dour with the knowledge that the doctor had not even heard the best music written by his son.

His Own Philharmonic

He founded the Philharmonic Society in 1850 giving monthly concerts among them being his Meyerbeyer gold medal winning Faust. He played a trick on his critics, when his pseudonym Pierre Dueré supposedly wrote a pastoral in 1679, just now uncovered, that they loved -- only to learn from a leak -- Berlioz was the true composer! Most were successful, like "The Repose of the Holy Family" for The Flight into Egypt, even at London's "New Philharmonic Society" except for Benvenuto that was such a Liszt directed hit at Weimar.

The Emperor's Concertp> Hesitantly, fearing risk, Berlioz presented a concert a the Palais f'Industrie with 1200 musicians in front of the insistent Napoleon and his Empress. His own March of the Banners was played along with twenty times the number of voices singing Les Huguenots, eighty harps in Rossini's Moses' "Prayer" and Mozart's Ave Verum. He made over two days 75,000 francs even though some thought his brass was akin to the slaughter of cattle or the debacle of Troy.

His wife's death of a lingering paralysis in 1854 and after surviving a great bout of despair, he married a woman he had met earlier, and his Spanish-only speaking new mother-in-law was to prove helpful.

The Institute

Berlioz was a perennial candidate for the Institute only to be denied that honor, even considering how many crosses and medals he owned from overseas. But finally in 1856 he made this coveted position. And it was this year he published a new version of his 1844, "Treatise on Instrumentation." But, the next year he had intestinal problems that interfered with work, yet he published some of his memoirs to raise money for his ex-Navy son's merchant marine exam.

Final 10 Years

Challenge from Wagner's "Music of the Future"

Richard Wagner came to Paris for three concerts in 1859 showing off his "Music of the Future." Not to be outdone, Berlioz through down the gauntlet and wrote his Credo, and the duel probably affected Beethoven's final works. Berlioz probably did not have to try to dissuade music lovers against Tannhäuser as they (at this time) enjoyed Berlioz's directing a nostalgic Gluck classic repertoire.

The Final Tale of Three Women/

When his second wife died in 1862, she suffered the posthumous indignity of sharing a common grave with his first. He also saw his first love, the "Star of the Mountain" again and he embarrassed both of them when he felt like he did as boy, seeking a relationship from this white haired grandmother of seventy years old.

Great Works (10 Years Ahead of its Time)

He finally finished his comic opera which idea originated in 1833, derived from Much Ado About Nothing, called: Bèatrice et BènBèct. A decade later when his next work, the "Troyens": The Capture of Troy, and The Trojans at Carthage were played accurately, then they were hailed as the epitome of a lyric tragedy as Gluck would have done it.   Somehow he was at his best when doing the opposite of his love, descriptive music; when doing the classic styles instead. But the twenty or so times these "Troyens" were given during the time of his life, in their debut he received diminishing receipts; even with 50,000 francs, his health crisis was taking a financial toll. He finally quit the official role of critic, but, though glad to be rid of what had became a burden, he had earned the Cross of the Legion of Honor from it.

Wagner's Valkeries Nipping at Hector's Heels

Berlioz got tired of being the second name cited in the oft mentioned "Wagner and Berlioz" together. He was especially irritated when he saw his old friend Liszt 'grooving' on Wagner. Was he not famous throughout Europe and beyond? Indeed he toured abroad and once attended a concert in Vienna where the ladies would wear cameo's with his face upon them, part of the enthusiastic crowds heard a 12th anniversary of his Faustin 1866. But, he would not give up the 'Hottentots,' as he called his Parisiennes, to become the Kappelmeister at the Imperial Chapel in Austria. He certainly was the picayune conductor, when, for example, the time an English horn players' mistake prompted Belioz to hurl his baton at the malingerer.

Sadness and Honor

Once again, he was greeted upon a return to Paris by bad news, this time his beloved only son, the Captain, had succumbed to Yellow Fever in Havana. His grief can be summed up in his words: "It was for him to live, for me to die." But soon after, he was asked by William Steinway to come pose for a gigantic bust to adorn a New York office building, but the all expenses paid offer from Russia's Grand Duchess Helena to manage the Conservatory of St. Petersburg, to put on 6 concerts for 4000 rubles sent him packing in 1867. One of those was in Moscow where almost 11000 enjoyed the 500 musicians, but Berlioz was not sure he was really successful, he was plagued by doubts from a career of highs and lows.

Last Trip Home

He was exhausted when he made it back to France in 1868, and he went to the mellow climate at the coast of Monaco to recuperate. Instead his spring day turned into fall, as that's what he did on the beaches' rocks, passed out face down. He recovered enough to make it to Paris, then his old hometown of Grenoble taking the presidency of a choral society meeting.

Before he died of the paralysis in 1869 a year after his accident, he found some amusement feeding the birds and being temporarily re-energized by discussions of Shakespeare or his works.

Now his predictions that the stones that had been thrown at him would now mount his memorial could come true, maybe a little too late for him to relish.

Source: Famous Composers, Nathan Haskell Dole; Thomas Y. Crowell, Co., 1925

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