Hector Berlioz: A Romantic Tragedy

'“No doubt I deserve to go to Hell”, said Berlioz once to a friend who had reproached him for his treatment of Henrietta Smithson, his first wife; “but what would you have? I am in Hell already!”

It was not an exaggeration or a figure of speech. Berlioz was in hell the greater part of his life. Of all the great composers he was perhaps the most consistently wretched. Misery and frustration pursued him from his youth to his grave. Time and again his existence seemed like the fulfillment of a curse. Actually, his mother had called one down upon him at the very beginning of his career and for the rest of his days it appeared to work itself out implacably. One might even believe the malediction had retained its power beyond the tomb. For the posthumous glory of Berlioz is by no means unchallenged. Almost alone among the masters he does not command anything like universal admiration, let alone affection. He has his redoubtable champions and they include many of the greatest musicians, living and dead. But where Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Brahms, Wagner need no defense Berlioz incontestably does. Rightly or wrongly he continues to be a problem, with all that this condition implies. Yet without him music could not conceivably be just what it is. And perhaps the strangest aspect of the paradox is that only a limited portion of his output enjoys anything like what might be called frequent hearing. The greater part of his greatest works remains to all intents, undiscovered—nay, unsuspected—by the multitude.'

PEYSER, Herbert F. Hector Berlioz: A Romantic Tragedy. The Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, 1949.

Silvia Pato