Berlioz, Hector

Not until after his death did Berlioz meet with justice in his own country. His genius was widely recognized abroad, but at home full appreciation came very late. It was his Te Deum, written for the Paris Exhibition in 1855, that won for him partial recognition; but the history of his life in the city he so loved is a record of hardwon success followed by heart-breaking failure. His last work, the opera of Les Troyens a Carthage, which he hoped to have rank as his masterpiece, after a very short run was driven from the boards. But at this time appreciation from without continued to be shown him. His little opera, Beatrice et Benedict, produced at Baden, enjoyed great success. An invitation, which was not accepted, came from America, an offer of 100,000 francs, if Berlioz would go to New York. An Imperial invitation from Russia he did accept, and in Russia again met with cordial welcome.

Berlioz's last days were somber and lonely. His wife died in 1862. His son Louis, serving in the French navy, came to an untimely death at Havana in 1867. Private sorrow, and public indifference, mark the end of is career. Though Berlioz was in a sense without honor in his own country, yet the highest honors the country could bestow were yielded him. He had a seat in the Academy, and wore the ribbon of the Legion of Honor. In 1852 he received appointment to the post of Librarian of the Conservatory, a post that he occupied till his death. At the end, which occurred in Paris, March 9, 1867, he asked to be carried back to Paris to die. He was laid to rest with stately pomp and ceremony. A decade later, a Berlioz commemorative concert was given, with the Hippodrome filled to the roof. Bust and statue the awakened French people have put in place in honor of Berlioz. In 1903 the centenary of Berlioz's birth was duly celebrated in Paris, the "proud, disdainful city" whose meed he so bitterly craved.

The following are the most important of Berlioz's compositions: The Requiem, composed in memory of the fall of General Damremont and the French loss in Algiers; the Te Deum; the dramatic legend, La Damnation de Faust; the trilogie, L'Enfance du Christ; the opera Benvenuto Cellini; the comic opera Beatrice et Benedict; the grand opera Les Troyens; and his orchestral compositions, the chief of which are the overture Le Carnaval Romain, and the symphonies Harold en Italic and Romeo et Juliette. It is as master of the orchestra that Berlioz holds unquestioned rank, taking place beside Beethoven, Wagner and Dvorak. The dramatic vividness of his music may at times startle, but it must be understood that Berlioz perceived a not altogether fanciful connection between emotion and musical expression. Today he stands as one of the great masters in the field of descriptive music and also program music. Hadow, writing in Grove, says "Berlioz knew the capacities of the different instruments better than the virtuosi who played them. His work . . . marks a new era in Instrumentation, and has been directly or indirectly the guide of every composer since his day." Berlioz's criticisms of the musicians of his day were unequaled, but it should be noted that he was the first musician in Europe who truly appreciated Beethoven. His criticisms, like his compositions, are, first of all, original, fearless opinions fearlessly expressed, and the expression, marked by charm and force, makes his writings on music of unusual literary value. The list of his literary and critical works is as follows: Voyage Musical, etudes sur Beethoven, Gluck et Weber; Les Soirees de l'Orchestre; Les Grotesques de la Musique; A Travers Chants; Memoires de Berlioz; Correspondance inedite; Lettres Intimes, and Les Musiciens et la Musique. In spite of whatever is bizarre and erratic, in Berlioz's work, no one can deny to him great imaginative faculty. An artist of rare creative power, Berlioz is compared to that other most original Frenchman, Victor Hugo.