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founded 1952

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The young Berlioz

The Berlioz Society is a Registered Charity
No. 1124443
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The aged Berlioz  

-- Who we are --

The Berlioz Society - a non-profit-making organisation of persons with an interest
in and a love of the music of the great French composer Hector Berlioz (1803 -1869) - is a
registered Charity. Chaired by David Cairns, author of the definitive two-volume life of Berlioz,
the Society has an international membership including Professor Hugh Macdonald, editor of the New Berlioz Edition.

-- What we do --

The Society's aim is to increase the public's awareness of the life and works of Berlioz,
this great composer, especially the lesser known works. To this end the Society organises
meetings, weekends, conferences and publications, and other events.
-- Members' Page --

Members of The Berlioz Society may access a page with information only available to members
by following the instructions in their copy of the Society's Bulletin.


--- About Berlioz ---

The author Victor Hugo, the painter Eugène Delacroix and the composer Hector Berlioz were the troika of the French Romantic
Movement of the 19th century. Heavily influenced by Gluck, Weber and Beethoven, Berlioz (1803-69) spearheaded the romantic
movement in music, writing some of the first programme music, introducing choirs, vocal soloists, the harp and the saxophone
 - the invention of his Belgian friend Adolphe Sax - permanently into the symphony orchestra, experimenting with "stereo"
and offstage acoustical effects, inventing the 'idée fixe' - a recurring short melodic strain signifying a person or
obsession - forerunner of Wagner's 'leitmotiv' - and creating the modern orchestra. A great conductor, orchestrator,
journalist, music critic and writer, Berlioz only played the guitar and the flute, the orchestra being his instrument. He
composed about 150 works, notably four symphonies, three operas, a requiem and two masses as well as song cycles, cantatas,
concert overtures, Hungary's national anthem and a rumbustious reworking of France's "Marseillaise". His best known work is
the autobiographical Symphonie fantastique (1830) - in which the 'idée fixe' - representing the composer's passion for the
Irish Shakespearean actress Harriet Smithson - plays a major role.

After years of being considered an eccentric outsider in classical music, Berlioz is now recognised as a true original and
one of the greatest innovators ever. Even his detractors have always had to concede his supremacy as an orchestrator, but
now, with all his large scale works available on recordings, his great melodic gifts and unique compositional imagination
are in the public arena for all to appreciate. In addition, his writings display the warmth and wit of his personality and
his immense critical intelligence, showing him to be one of the most engaging of the great composers.

The influence of Berlioz on later composers can hardly be exaggerated.  To cite but one example, in his "Portrait of Elgar",
second edition (1982) p. 218, Michael Kennedy says of the "Canto popolare" episode in the concert overture 'In the South - Alassio'
"This haunting melody, original and so Elgarian, but Italian in spirit, is given to the solo viola as a
salute to Berlioz from ‘Edward in Italy’."

"Which of these two powers, love or music, can elevate man to the sublimest heights?
Why separate them? They are the two wings of the soul."  Hector Berlioz 1803–1869
Nevertheless, he did have his critics:-
"He makes me really sad, because he is actually a cultured, agreeable man and yet he composes so incredibly badly."
Felix Mendelssohn in a letter to his family in 1831, after meeting Berlioz in Rome. However, he did recollect that he found Berlioz:-
" - - that quiet, friendly, thoughtful person, going his way calmly and confidently . . . deaf to any outside criticism
in his determination to follow only his inner inspiration."
More about Berlioz:-


Thirteenth Annual Berlioz Society Weekend

28 and 29 November 2015

The Art Workers’ Guild
6 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AT

Berlioz the Writer

Although often a source of frustration to their author – who saw journalism as a hindrance to his musical ambitions – Berlioz’s
writings are every bit as much a part of his artistic legacy as his compositions. His personality, simultaneously cynical, idealistic
and irrepressible, runs through them all, in prose alternately thoughtful and fizzing with wit.

Most famous among his books are the Mémoires, an autobiography showing a self-awareness worthy of Pepys, candidly describing his
triumphs and disasters, his loves and his clashes with mindless authority. Les Soirées de l’Orchestre shows us the range of his
imagination, pulling together articles and essays that warn us of the perils of laughing at Weber's Der Freischütz, evoke the magic
of Paganini and the terror of a piano that can learn by repetition and ultimately reveal the ideal musical city of Euphonia – all
this dispensed by the players in the pit of a northern European opera house.

more details


Oxford Lieder Festival 2015
Hector Berlioz - A Study Day

24 October 2015 - 11:00am - 4:00pm
£20 (including coffee on arrival)
Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda's College, Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DY

Presented in association with The Berlioz Society

A day spent exploring this colourful character, a highly influential, even revolutionary composer, author and conductor.

Speakers include David Cairns, author of the definitive biography of Berlioz.

11am Welcome coffee

11.30am ‘Berlioz in Context’ - a talk given by David Cairns

12.30pm A light lunch will be available for purchase

1.15pm Lunchtime recital
Rachel Kelly mezzo-soprano
Andri Björn Róbertsson bass-baritone
Edwige Herchenroder piano

2.30pm 'From Romance to Mélodie' - a talk given by Julian Rushton

3.20pm 'Berlioz's legacy' - a talk given by Richard Wigmore

The evening recital, at 7.30pm in the Holywell Music Room, Holywell St, Oxford with also focus on Berlioz,
with James Gilchrist, Dorottya Láng and Julius Drake.

Further information / bookings:  www.oxfordlieder.co.uk    www.ticketslieder.co.uk  or by telephone 01865 305305


Festival Berlioz 2015 - Advance information

This summer's Berlioz Festival at La Côte Saint-André, the composer's birthplace near Grenoble, is to have a Napoleonic theme
with the title “Sur les routes Napoléon”. Running from August 19-30, the programme is to include performances of the Te Deum,
the Symphonie fantastique and Lélio and the Grande Symphonie funèbre et triomphale. Among leading conductors are
François-Xavier Roth and Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

For more information CLICK HERE

New Members' Special offer - for a limited period!
Annual membership of the Society costs £20.00 and new members of the Society will receive a free copy of a 32-page illustrated
monograph by Dr Philip Mansel on Paris in the Age of Berlioz, published by the Society in November 2006.
If you wish to join the Society, or obtain more information, please contact us as below.
Colin Davis discography
Berlioz was the target of caricaturists - probably more than any other composer.  To see a selection of these, CLICK HERE
He has also inspired many portraits, including one by Haydn Greenaway, to view, CLICK HERE


  If you have any QUESTIONS about Berlioz, contact our Questions and Comments line. We'll try to find an answer to any question about Berlioz's life and works. If you have an INTERESTING ITEM about Berlioz, the man, his life, his music etc., contact our Questions and Comments line, and it may appear here, with an attribution  "our thanks to (your name) of (town) for this item."


J.M.W. Turner: Childe Harold's Pilgrimage - Italy (1832) - after Byron's poem of the same name
- which was also the inspiration for Berlioz's "Harold in Italy", for viola and orchestra.


Contact the Membership Secretary at  linda.edmondson@phonecoop.coop
for this and all other enquiries.

Berlioz the genius 
Berlioz Society Officers
President and Bulletin Editor: David Cairns CBEHon. Secretary: Simon Jones
Chairman: Alastair AberdareMembership Secretary: Linda Edmondson
Vice-Chairman: Adam Ridley Weekend Coordinator : Helen Petchey
Hon. Treasurer: Martin PriceSummer Event Co-ordinator: Shelagh Marston
Media Relations: Christopher FollettWebmaster: Dave May
 Archivist: Brian Godfrey

Last updated:  22nd September  2015
This website prepared and maintained by Ian Hickman Partners (Eur. Ing. D.I. H. May BSc.Hons, C.Eng, MIEE, MIEEE, and D. M. May B.A.Hons, A.C.I.L.) www.ianhickman.org.uk






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