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    Hector Berlioz

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    Hector Berlioz was born in December 1803 in south-eastern France. He was a renowned composer of Romantic music most known for his large programmatic symphonies. Born into an academic family, Berlioz was schooled at home by his father Louis. In his younger years, he had a keen interest in geography, later transitioning towards philosophy. 

    At the wishes of Berlioz’s father, he studied medicine at the University of Paris, soaking up the musical offerings of the city in his spare time. He visited the opera many times and often went to the library of the Paris Conservatoire to read scores. 

    Berlioz was then accepted by the director of the conservatoire’s Royal Chapel as a private composition student. Upon graduating medical school, Berlioz began studying at the Paris Conservatoire between 1824 and 1830.

    Berlioz was a key composer of programme music with one significant example being his Symphonie Fantastique composed in 1830. The work tells the story of an artist’s poisoned soul following unrequited love. Another pivotal work was Harold en Italie, a work requested by Paganini for viola and orchestra. However due to Berlioz’s strong artistic visions, he and Paganini did not continue working together following a dispute over technical aspects of the viola part and the piece was premiered by another violist in 1833.

    Berlioz held many concerts performing his works throughout his time at the conservatoire. He then moved to Rome for two years meeting many high-flying members of society including the composer Felix Mendelssohn, whom he became very close friends with.

    Felix Mendelssohn

    Despite his early success, Berlioz began to struggle financially following an unsuccessful premiere of an opera he had written in the late 1830s. He continued to compose to mixed responses, in total composing four large-scale symphonic works, three operas and numerous choral works and melodies across his lifetime.
    The deaths of his first and second wives affected Berlioz deeply and saw a turn towards more melancholic and emotional compositions such as Béatrice Et Bénédict. Following the tragic death of his son, Berlioz continued to work, performing a series of concerts in Russia which were received very well however returned to France ill. Following a slow decline with a few limited public appearances, Hector Berlioz passed away at his home in Calais in 1869. After his death, his music gained popularity and he is now regarded as one of the most significant French composers.

    Oliver Clayton
    Oliver Clayton
    Oliver Clayton is currently reading an undergraduate degree in Music at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire where he studies modern violin with Susanne Stanzeleit and baroque violin with Lucy Russell. Whilst at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Oliver often plays in the Birmingham New Music concert series where he premiers new compositions. Oliver also works as a creative, collaborating on various artistic projects in and around Birmingham. Oliver regularly performs with the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus singing alongside the CBSO. When not playing the violin, Oliver is an avid reader of modern and contemporary fiction and writes commercially. Before attending higher education, he studied German and History alongside Music.
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