Berlioz (1803 - 1869)
: December 11, 1803 in Grenoble, France
: March 8, 1869 in Paris, France
Hector Berlioz was born on December 11, 1803, into the family of a medical Doctor Louis Berlioz and Marie-Antoinette-Josephine. He was the first of six children. He took music lessons at home from a visiting teacher and played flute and guitar.
In 1821, Berlioz went to Paris to study medicine. It was during this time that his passion for music developed and he spent more days at the Paris Conservatory, than at the Medical School. He eventually abandoned medicine for music and successfully performed his "Messe Solennelle" in 1825.
When Berlioz fell in love with Harriet Smithson, an Irish actress, Berlioz composed the Symphonie Fantastique in 1831 as an expression of his love for her. Berlioz then went on to compose a number of brilliant works in the 1830s, and following an unexpected, large gift from the violin virtuoso, Niccolo Paganini, Berlioz was able to pay his debts and write the powerful Romeo et Juliette in 1839.
From 1835, Berlioz conducted all his own concerts, forging a career as one of the first specialised conductors. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s he toured Europe, travelling to Germany, England, Austria, Russia and elsewhere, where he conducted operas and orchestral music.
In his later years, disillusioned and ailing, Berlioz managed to complete his memoirs but largely stayed away from music and concerts. The death of his son Louis, of yellow fever in Havana, was a terrible blow, and Berlioz dies less than two years later.
The music of Berlioz has often been cited as extremely influential in the development of the symphonic form, instrumentation and the depiction in music of programmatic and literary ideas, features central to musical Romanticism. He was considered extremely progressive for his day, and he, Wagner, and Liszt have been called the "Great Trinity of Progress" of 19th century Romanticism.