Hector Berlioz (1803 - 1869)



Donald Macleod looks at some of the obsessions of a very obsessive character, Hector Berlioz, and discusses the composer's passion for music.

Symphonie fantastique, Reveries Passions

Concertebouw Orchestra Amsterdam

Sir Colin Davis (conductor)


Diane Montague (mezzo-soprano)

Orchestre de L'opera de Lyon

Sir John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Grande messe de morts - Requiem et Kyrie; Dies Irae

London Symphony Orchestra

André Previn (conductor)

Ô Blonde Cérès from Les Troyens, Act 4, Scene 2

Roberto Alagna (tenor)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Bertrand de Billy (conductor).

01Berlioz The Songwriter *20050523

Biographer and Berlioz authority David Cairns joins Donald Macleod to talk about aspects of Hector Berlioz's music.

They discuss Berlioz's songwriting.

Berlioz's earliest compositions were songs, some of which may have been written while he was still living at home with his parents in La Côte-Saint-André.

As a young man keen to further his musical studies he moved to PARIS in 1821, but although he became enthused with writing larger orchestral works he continued to write songs intermittently up until 1850, expanding and developing the genre.

Elégie, Irlande, Op 2

Robert Tear (tenor)

Viola Tunnard (piano)

Le Jeune Pâtre breton, Op 13, No 4

John Aler (tenor)

Bernd Schenk (horn)

Cord Garben (piano)

Les nuits d'été, Op 7

Susan Graham (mezzo soprano)Royal Opera House Orchestra

John Nelson (conductor)

La mort d'Ophélie

Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo soprano).


Hector Berlioz described his discovery of William Shakespeare as coming like a thunderbolt.

Donald Macleod explores the effect this thunderbolt had on Berlioz's music.

La Mort d'Orphélie

Ann Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano)

Cord Garben (piano)

Romeo et Juliette, Scene d'amour

Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique

Sir John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Beatrice et Benedict (excerpts)

Beatrice....Susan Graham (soprano)

Hero....Sylvia McNair (soprano)

Ursule....Catherine Robbin (mezzo)

Benedict....Jean Luc Viala (tenor)

Choir and Orchestra of Opera Lyon

John Nelson (conductor).

02Berlioz's Religious Music *20050524

Donald Macleod and the Berlioz expert David Cairns consider Berlioz's contribution to religious works.

Although he's often considered primarily as a dramatic composer, nonetheless Berlioz produced three of his greatest works for the church, the Grand messe des morts or Requiem in 1837, the Te Deum of 1849 and the biblical oratorio l'Enfance du Christ between 1850-1854.

Prière, Act 2, Benvenuto Cellini

Teresa CHRISTIANe Eda-Pierre (soprano)

Jane Berbié (mezzo soprano)Royal Opera House Chorus

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Sir Colin Davis (conductor)

Excerpt from Messe Solennelle

Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique

Sir John Eliot Gardiner (conductor)

Excerpt from Grande Messe des Morts, Op 5

Royal Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra

Sir Thomas Beecham (conductor)

Prière du Matin

Female members of Chamber Choir of Lyon National Orchestra

Noël Lee (piano)

Bernard Tétu (director)

Judex crederis (Te Deum)

Massed choirsEUROPEan Community Youth Orchestra

Martin Haselböck (organ)

Claudio Abbado (conductor)

Epilogue from l'Enfance du Christ

Paul Agnew (tenor)

La Chapelle Royale

Collegium Vocale

Orchestre des Champs Elysées

Philippe Herreweghe (director).


Berlioz the Dramatist

Berlioz found dramatic expression and inspiration in Beethoven's music.

He was also stimulated by the prevailing artistic thirst for literature and art.

As a child he had read the Classics on his father's knee, and retained a life-long love of Virgil's the Aeneid.

He wasn't a linguist but could read and speak Italian and ENGLISH, and it's clear from the frequent quotations in his writings that he was thoroughly acquainted with the French classics in poetry and prose.

During the 1820s he discovered Shakespeare and Goethe's Faust, which resulted some years later in one of his most brilliant scores, which he described as an opera without décor or costumes, La damnation de Faust.

Donald Macleod is joined by the Berlioz expert David Cairns.

Excerpt from Cléopâtre

Dame Janet Baker (mezzo soprano)LONDON Symphony Orchestra

Sir Colin Davis (conductor)

King Lear, Op 4

Scottish National Orchestra

Sir Alexander Gibson (conductor)

Excerpt from La damnation de Faust Part 3

Jules Bastin (bass)LONDON Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Dance of the Sylphs from la damnation de FaustLONDON Symphony Orchestra

Invocation to Nature from La damnation de Faust, Part 4

Nicolai Gedda (tenor)LONDON Symphony Orchestra.


Donald Macleod discusses Hector Berlioz's great passion for the Irish actress Harriet Smithson, and the effect his obsession with her had on his work.

Elegi No 9 from Irlande Opus 2

Thomas Hampson (baritone)

Geoffrey Parsons (piano)

Fantasia on Shakespeare's The Tempest

London Symphony Chorus and Orchestra

Pierre Boulez (conductor)

Overture King Lear

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Alexander Gibson (conductor)

Concert de Sylphes from Eight Scenes of Faust

Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Choir

Charles Dutoit (conductor)

Sur Les Lagunes from Les Nuits d'Eté

Francoix Le Roux (baritone)

Montreal Symphony Orchestra.


Berlioz the Symphonist

Berlioz's artistic viewpoint saw the symphony as a form of drama which could equal any drama on stage.

His scale of vision and ideas about orchestration were ahead of his time.

His earliest symphonic work, the Symphonie fantastique, which was produced in 1830, had an electrifying effect on the audience.They'd never heard anything like it before.

Harold in Italy followed in 1834, which was inspired by Byron's dramatic poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Berlioz's own memories of happy times spent in the Abruzzi mountains outside Rome.

Like Beethoven before him, Berlioz's innovations challenged the way in which symphonic music was regarded.

Donald Macleod is joined by Berlioz expert David Cairns.

Ronde du Sabbat from Symphonie FantastiqueLONDON Symphony Orchestra

Sir Colin Davis (conductor)

Harold in Italy (2nd movement)

Tabea Zimmermann (viola)LONDON Symphony Orchestra

Symphonie funèbre (excerpt from 1st movement)

Montreal Symphony Orchestra

Charles Dutoit (conductor)

Roméo et Juliette (finale)

Gilles Cachemaille (baritone)

Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique

Monteverdi Choir

Sir John Eliot Gardiner (conductor).


'Beethoven opened up before me a new world of music' - so said the composer Hector Berlioz.

Donald Macleod explores the influence of Berlioz's hero on his work.

Extracts from The Damnation of Faust: Merci, doux crepuscule; Nature Immense

Placido Domingo (tenor)

Choir and Orchestra of Paris

Daniel Barenboim (conductor)

Harold in Italy

Yehudi Menuhin (viola)

Philharmonia Orchestra

Charles Dutoit (conductor).

05 LAST20060818

Donald Macleod ends this week of programmes looking at the obsessions of Hector Berlioz by exploring two lifelong passions, the writings of Virgil and Estelle Duboeuf.

Adieu Bessy, Op 2, No 8

Robert Tear (tenor)

Viola Tunnard (piano)

Act 5 (excerpt), from Les Troyens

Dido....Francoise Pollet (soprano)

Aeneas....Garry Lakes (tenor)

Iopas....Jean Luc Maurette (tenor)

Anna....Helen Perraguin (mezzo-soprano)

Narbal....Jean Philippe Courtis (bass)

Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Choir

Charles Dutoit (conductor)

Marche funèbre pour le derniere scene d'Hamlet Tristia, Op 18, No 3

Cleveland Orchestra

Pierre Boulez (conductor).

05 LASTHector Berlioz (1803-1869)20050527

Berlioz the Opera Composer

Donald Macleod and Berlioz authority David Cairns turn their attention to Berlioz's operatic output.

Between about 1836 and 1862 Berlioz produced three works.

The comic-operas Benvenuto Cellini, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, Béatrice et Benedict, and The Trojans, which was inspired by Berlioz's childhood passion for Virgil.

L'amour et un flambeau, Act 2, Béatrice et Benedict

Eukelejda Shkosa (mezzo soprano)

Kenneth Tarver (tenor)LONDON Symphony Chorus and Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis

Trio from Act 1, Benvenuto CelliniCHRISTIANe Eda-Pierre (soprano)

Nicolai Gedda (tenor)

Robert Massard (baritone)

BBC SO/Sir Colin Davis

Scene 8, Act 1, Benvenuto Cellini

Derek Blackwell (tenor)

Robert Lloyd (bass)Royal Opera House Chorus

Scene 1, Act 2, Benvenuto Cellini

Je crois en vous

Thomas Allen (baritone)

Cord Garben (piano)

Dieu! Que viens je d'entredre/il m'en souvient, Act 2 Béatrice et Benedict

Enkelejda Shkosa (mezzo soprano)

LSO/Sir Colin Davis

Duet from Act 3, The Trojans

Michelle de Young (mezzo soprano)

Anna Sara Mingardo (alto)

Finale to Act 1, The Trojans

Benn Heppner (tenor)

Alan Ewing (bass)

Cassandra Petra Lang (mezzo soprano)LONDON Symphony Chorus and Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis.