Hector Berlioz Research Paper

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The French composer Hector Berlioz once said, “Every composer knows the anguish and despair occasioned by forgetting ideas which one had no time to write down” (Brainyquotes). This quote would be poignant if it had not come from the man who composed an entire symphony in his head and refused to write it down. Hector Berlioz was a man plagued with the mind of an artist. An erratic man, Berlioz lived a life as whirling and exciting as his music. The romantic period of the arts (1850-1910) brought forth artists that turned away from the rigidity logic and religion and, instead, expressed themselves through whimsy. Characterized by a strong sense of emotion and imagination, romantic music was written by composers such as Frederic Chopin, Franz…show more content…
His father, a successful physician, gave young Hector most of his education, but Hector did not share his father’s love of medicine. Instead, he had a love of music. Young Berlioz did not receive much formal instrumental training in his early years, much like many composers. Berlioz learned the theoretical implications of harmony and by age twelve he was composing for nearby chamber music groups and with their aid learned to master the flute and guitar (Britannica). At age eighteen, Berlioz’s father sent him to Paris to become a doctor; this was not a career Berlioz had any interest in. He worked for a year to obtain a degree in science while spending most of his free time at the Paris Conservatory library studying scores. Berlioz decided he would not continue and education in medicine and enrolled himself in the Paris Conservatory. His father disapproved, but allowed it as long as Berlioz passed the baccalaureate examinations. Berlioz was known as a ‘wild man’ at the Conservatory. He tried many times to win the Prix de Rome and succeeded in 1830 with his cantata La Mort de Sardanapale (Classical). He ventured to win the Prix de Rome not for himself, but to prove that music would be a lucrative career to his parents. Composition not proving fruitful, Berlioz began writing music critique articles as a means of steady income.…show more content…
Symphonie Fantastique was a biographical recount of his love for Shakespearian actress Harriet Smithson. Berlioz had seen Smithson perform as Ophelia in Hamlet and was mesmerized by her talent. Berlioz became enamored with Smithson and was described as “hysterically in love with her”(Sherrane). Smithson rebuffed his advances. Devastated, Berlioz decided to immortalize his love for her with his symphony. The symphony occurs in five movements in which the story tells of an artist who overdoses on opium after a rejection by his love. In his deluded state he dreams of his passions, his desires, his love, her murder, and his own death. Berlioz represents his love through a motif known as the idée fixe, a melodic unifier used throughout the entire symphony. The symphony was exceedingly popular at its premiere, and made a name for Berlioz as well as a large profit

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