December 11, 1803: Louis-Hector Berlioz is born at 69 rue de la République in La Côte-St.-André, 48 km northwest of Grenoble in the Department of Isère, Republic of France, the first of six children born to Louis-Joseph Berlioz, a physician and Marie-Antoinette-Joséphine Marmion, daughter of a Grenoble lawyer.
March 22, 1821: Hector Berlioz (17) receives a Bachelier ès lettres (baccalaureate degree) at Grenoble.
October 26, 1821: Hector Berlioz (17) receives a passport for domestic travel at the Grenoble Town Hall. Before the month is out, he will use it to travel to Paris to study the art of medicine.
November 16, 1821: Hector Berlioz (17) enrolls at the Faculté de Médecine of the Académie de Paris of the Université Royale de France.
August 21, 1822: Hector Berlioz (18) witnesses a performance of Gluck’s (†34) Iphigénie en Tauride at the Paris Opéra. By the end, he has decided that he will give up his medical studies and become a composer.
October 21, 1822: Hector Berlioz (18) begins his journey from La Côte-St.-André to Paris after summer vacation. His father expects that he will resume his medical studies.
November 21, 1822: Owing to political unrest, the faculty of the Paris College of Medicine is dismissed and the college is closed. Hector Berlioz (18), a student for little more than a year, thus ends his regular studies of medicine.
April 25, 1823: The Paris College of Medicine is reopened after the government shut it down for five months for political unrest. Hector Berlioz (19) is no longer a student.
May 11, 1823: After a difficult two months at home, Hector Berlioz (19) departs La Côte-St.-André for Paris. He has promised his parents that he will finish a baccalaureate degree within the next academic year.
January 12, 1824: In Paris, Hector Berlioz (20) takes the oral examination at the Faculty of Sciences and passes, giving him the degree of Bachelier ès sciences physiques and qualifying him for advanced study in medicine. The degree will be awarded tomorrow.
July 8, 1824: Hector Berlioz (20) arrives home in La Côte-St.-André for a stay of two and a half weeks.
July 25, 1824: After two and a half weeks at home in La Côte-St.-André, in increasing conflict with his father and family over his chosen vocation, Hector Berlioz (20) leaves to return to Paris.
August 31, 1824: Hector Berlioz (20) writes from Paris, replying to a scornful letter from his father: “I am driven involuntarily towards a magnificent career--no other adjective can be applied to the career of artist--and not towards my doom. For I believe I shall succeed; yes, I believe it...I wish to make a name for myself, I wish to leave some trace of my existence on this earth; and so strong is the feeling--which is an entirely honorable one--that I would rather be Gluck or Méhul dead than what I am in the flower of my age.”
December 27, 1824: Hector Berlioz’ (21) Messe en Grande Symphonie is rehearsed in the Church of St. Roch, Paris. The parts prepared by the children of the choir are riddled with errors causing the musicians to give up. A performance planned for tomorrow is cancelled.
February 24, 1825: Dr. Berlioz, after hearing of the fiasco of last 27 December, severs the allowance of his son Hector. This is the beginning of Hector Berlioz’ (21) financial troubles which will continue through the 1830s.
July 10, 1825: Messe solennelle by Hector Berlioz (21) is performed for the first time, in the Church of Saint-Roch. In spite of the fiasco of last 27 December, the work is a great success.
February 25, 1826: On the way to London, Carl Maria von Weber (39) arrives in Paris. During his stay in the city he will meet Luigi Cherubini (65), Daniel Auber (44), Gioacchino Rossini (33), Ferdinando Paer, and Charles-Simon Catel. Hector Berlioz (22), who idolizes Weber, seeks out the German but is unable to find him. Rossini, observing Weber’s terrible health, tries to talk him out of going on to London.
July 11, 1826: At the Institute in Paris, Hector Berlioz (22) and five others take part in the preliminary examination of the Prix de Rome, a fugue.
July 12, 1826: The music section of the Institute, which includes François-Joseph Gossec (92), Luigi Cherubini (65), and Adrien Boieldieu (50), decide that two of the six Prix de Rome candidates should not continue past the preliminary stage. One of them is Hector Berlioz (22). Based on this result, he and his teacher, Jean-François Le Sueur, decide that he must enroll in the Paris Conservatoire.
August 26, 1826: Hector Berlioz (23) enrolls in the composition course of Jean-François Le Sueur at the Paris Conservatoire.
October 2, 1826: Hector Berlioz (23) enrolls in the course in counterpoint and fugue of Anton Reicha at the Paris Conservatoire.
July 28, 1827: Hector Berlioz (23) and three other Prix de Rome candidates receive their examination poem, The Death of Orpheus, and are directed to their loges.
August 25, 1827: During the performance of Hector Berlioz’ (23) Prix de Rome cantata entry on The Death of Orpheus, the accompanist, Rifaud, breaks down and the music has to be abandoned. The jury decides that the work is unplayable and the matter is closed. In the awarding of prizes, it is not even mentioned.
September 11, 1827: On his first trip to see a production of Shakespeare, Hector Berlioz (23) first lays eyes on Harriet Smithson, playing Ophelia in Hamlet at the Théâtre de l’Odéon. The composer later remembers that this is the beginning of “the supreme drama of my life...The impression made on my heart and mind by her extraordinary talent, nay her dramatic genius, was equaled only by the havoc wrought in me by the poet she so nobly interpreted.” As for Ms. Smithson, it is her first performance in France. She is an overnight sensation.
November 22, 1827: Hector Berlioz (23) conducts in public for the first time in a performance of his 1825 mass in the Church of Saint-Eustache, Paris.
March 9, 1828: The first performance of the new Société des Concerts du Conservatoire takes place at the Paris Conservatory. The group has been formed to promote modern symphonic music, particularly Beethoven (†0). This day marks the first performance of the “Eroica” Symphony in France. It is these performances this Spring which will introduce Hector Berlioz (24) to Beethoven, to the expressive power of his music, and solidify for him the symphony as a dramatic form, capable of extra-musical associations
May 26, 1828: After much politicking and despite the opposition of Luigi Cherubini (67), Hector Berlioz (24) mounts the first concert in his career of concert-giving, at the Paris Conservatoire. Included on the program are first performances of his La révolution grecque, scène héroïque for vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra to words of Ferrand, the Waverly Overture, Marche religieuse des mages, and the overture to the opera Les francs-juges. The audience is not large, mostly musical luminaries and personal friends of Berlioz. The performance is mostly good with some flaws. Although he loses money, the critics are generally pleased and Berlioz makes a name for himself.
July 5, 1828: Hector Berlioz (24) and three other candidates receive their poem for the Prix de Rome competition and are directed to their loges. It is an excerpt from Tasso.
August 2, 1828: Hector Berlioz (24) receives the second Prix de Rome for his setting of the cantata Herminie.
September 27, 1828: Hector Berlioz (24) leaves his family home in La Côte-St.-André to return to Paris. For the first time, there is no anger or tears from anyone. He is the winner of the second Prix de Rome.
February 25, 1829: After a benefit performance in which both of them take part at the Théâtre Favart, Harriet Smithson informs Hector Berlioz (25), through her landlord M. Tartes, that she wants nothing to do with him and that he should stop pestering her. “Then it’s quite impossible?” Berlioz asks. “Oh, monsieur, nothing is more impossible,” comes the reply.
April 10, 1829: Hector Berlioz (25) sends a copy of Huit scènes de Faust to Goethe. The author, after receiving a negative reaction of the work from Carl-Friedrich Zelter, does not write back.
April 21, 1829: An article called “Reflections on Religious Music” appears in the progressive Catholic weekly Correspondant in Paris. It is signed “H”. The author, Hector Berlioz (25), will become a regular contributor and, starting in June, will be paid.
July 2, 1829: Hector Berlioz (25) begins work on his third Prix de Rome attempt, the cantata Cléopatre.
July 30, 1829: Hector Berlioz’ (25) entry in the Prix de Rome competition, the cantata Cléopâtre, is performed for the first time. No grand prize is awarded this year. The jury desired to give the prize to Berlioz but, as Adrien Boieldieu (53) will tell him, they could not judge music that they were incapable of understanding.
November 1, 1829: The Concert des sylphes from Huit scènes de Faust by Hector Berlioz (25) is performed for the first time, in the Salle du Conservatoire, Paris.
February 6, 1830: Hector Berlioz (26) writes to Humbert Ferrand of his mental state under the simultaneous burdens of conceiving the Symphonie fantastique and his infatuation with Harriet Smithson. “I listen to the beating of my heart, its pulsations shake me like the pounding pistons of a steam engine. Every muscle in my body quivers with pain. . . . Futile! . . . Horrible!” (Brittan, 218)
February 18, 1830: Two songs for voice and piano by Hector Berlioz (26) to words of Moore, translated by Gounet, are performed for the first time, in Paris: Le Coucher du soleil and Chant sacré.
April 16, 1830: Hector Berlioz (26) writes his friend Humbert Ferrand that he is getting over his obsession with Harriet Smithson by composing a symphony. He calls it Fantastic Symphony, Episode in the Life of an Artist and includes a draft of the program, saying he has just written the last note.
June 5, 1830: Hector Berlioz (26) writes to his family in La Côte-St. André to ask consent to marry Camille Moke, a very talented 18-year-old pianist. To his astonishment, they agree.
June 6, 1830: Hector Berlioz (26) and Camille Moke attempt an elopement. They get as far as Vincennes before turning back to Paris.
July 15, 1830: Hector Berlioz (26) is chosen as one of the six finalists for the Prix de Rome for the fourth time. He vows that whatever happens, this will be the last.
July 17, 1830: The six finalists for the Prix de Rome, including Hector Berlioz (26), enter the loges. The poem is by Jean-François Gail on the last night of Sardanapalus.
July 28, 1830: In the Paris fighting, the Hôtel de Ville changes hands three times. Citizens capture cavalry barracks in the Rue de Babylone. A tricolor flag appears atop Notre Dame. In his loge in the Institute, composing his Prix de Rome cantata, Hector Berlioz (26) hears the gunfire and drums.
July 29, 1830: After several hours of heavy fighting, citizens capture the Louvre and the Tuileries Palace. Royal troops begin to fraternize with revolutionaries. A provisional government is formed at the Hôtel de Ville under Marie Jean Paul Roch Yves Gilbert Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Hector Berlioz (26) composes through the day as bullets hit the wall of the Institute, just across the Seine from the Louvre. At 17:00, he turns in his Prix de Rome cantata, Le mort de Sardanaple, and leaves the Institute to go to Mme Moke’s to see if his lover Camille is all right. He then searches for three hours for arms with which to join the uprising. He reports for duty at the Hôtel de Ville with two hunting pistols, one bullet and a little powder. Among those looting the Tuileries is Alexandre Dumas, père. He is flattered to find a copy of his own book Christine in the royal apartments. He takes it with him.
July 30, 1830: Hearing a rumor that King Charles X is planning a counterrevolution, a crowd marches to arrest the King at St. Cloud. Among the citizens is Hector Berlioz (26). When they reach the Etoile they find the soldiers gone, so they return to town. 80 deputies meet in the Palais Bourbon led by Jacques Lafitte and establish a new regime.
August 19, 1830: By a vote of 6-2, the Prix de Rome jury awards the grand prize to Hector Berlioz (26).
October 28, 1830: Hector Berlioz (26) petitions the French Minister of the Interior for “authorization to enjoy in Paris the grant which the government in its munificence accords to laureates of the Academy.” He includes support from four eminent musicians including Gaspare Spontini (55) and Giacomo Meyerbeer (39).
October 30, 1830: Hector Berlioz (26) receives his laurel wreath of the Prix de Rome. The performance of his winning cantata, La mort de Sardanaple, is less than successful. The percussion players miss the loud crashes towards the end and the composer throws the score into the orchestra, knocking over a music stand. He is restrained.
November 7, 1830: Ouverture pour La Tempête de Shakespeare for chorus and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (26) is performed for the first time, in the Paris Opéra as an entr’acte between Act I of Rossini’s (38) La siège de Corinthe and a ballet.
December 4, 1830: Franz Liszt (19) meets Hector Berlioz (26) for the first time, in Paris on the eve of Symphonie fantastique. Berlioz will remember in his Mémoires, “We were strongly attracted to one another, and our friendship has increased in warmth and depth ever since. He was present at the concert and excited general attention by his applause and enthusiasm.”
December 5, 1830: Afternoon. Episode de la vie d’un artiste: Symphonie fantastique en cinq parties by Hector Berlioz (26) is performed for the first time, at the Paris Conservatoire. Also on the program is the premiere of Berlioz’ Chant guerrier for voice and piano to words of Moore, translated by Gounet. Giacomo Meyerbeer (39) and Gaspare Spontini (56) are among the admirers. Berlioz later remembers that Liszt (19) “forcibly led me off to dinner at his house and praised me with the most energetic enthusiasm.” Tonight Harriet Smithson appears at the Opéra in the title role of Auber’s (48) La Muette de Portici. Her performance is a failure. Berlioz does not attend as he is having dinner with Liszt.
December 6, 1830: A package containing an expensive score of Olimpie arrives at the Paris home of Hector Berlioz (26). The score is signed “your affectionate Spontini” (56) by the composer.
December 14, 1830: Hector Berlioz’ (27) petition of 28 October, to spend his Prix de Rome year in Paris, is denied by the Minister of the Interior.
December 31, 1830: Hector Berlioz (27) reluctantly leaves Paris for Rome to fulfill his Prix de Rome obligations. He intends to stop at his home, La Côte-St.-André along the way.
January 5, 1831: Hector Berlioz (27) reaches his home in La Côte-St.-André on his way to Rome. It is the first time he has been there in two years, during which he won the Prix de Rome, participated in the July Revolution, saw the premiere of Symphonie fantastique, and almost got married.
March 12, 1831: One day after his arrival in Rome, Hector Berlioz (27) meets Felix Mendelssohn (22). The two will spend a lot of time in each other’s company over the next few weeks. Mendelssohn writes to his family from Rome, “…Berlioz, who arrived yesterday, came by, and we played his pieces, the Overture to The Tempest …and then the symphony, which is called ‘Episode from the Life of an Artist’, and for which a printed program will be distributed [that describes] how the poor artist goes to the devil, where the listeners would like to have been long ago. Now and then all the instruments have a hangover and vomit music, making us very uncomfortable. And yet he is a very pleasant fellow, he speaks well, and he has fine ideas, and one cannot help but like him.” (Grimes/Mace, 120)
April 1, 1831: Worried about the lack of correspondence from his fiancee, Hector Berlioz (27) leaves Rome making for Paris and jeopardizing his Prix de Rome grant.
April 12, 1831: While vacillating in Florence on whether to return to Paris, Hector Berlioz (27) happens to attend the funeral of Napoleon-Louis, nephew of the emperor, who has died in the Italian cause against the Austrians at Forlì.
April 14, 1831: In Florence, Hector Berlioz (27) receives a letter from Mme Moke, stating that her daughter, his fiancee Camille Moke, is going to marry someone else. She suggests that he not kill himself. He concocts a plan to arrive at their house disguised and kill both of them. He leaves for Paris tonight.
April 17, 1831: At Genoa, on his desperate trip back to Paris from Florence, Hector Berlioz (27), weak from not eating and lovesick despair, falls Ophelia-like, off the ramparts into the ocean. After almost drowning he is fished out and spends a long time lying on the beach vomiting water.
April 18, 1831: On his furious charge back to Paris to kill his fiancee and her mother, Hector Berlioz (27) reaches Nice. He will stay there a month and later remember these as the happiest days of his life.
May 19, 1831: After having spent a month in Nice, which was as far as he got in his attempt to return to Paris to murder his former fiancee and her mother, and during which he composed his King Lear Overture, Hector Berlioz (27) begins his return journey to Rome.
June 2, 1831: Hector Berlioz (27) arrives in Rome in the company of a group of monks traveling there for the Feast of Corpus Christi.
July 28, 1831: On the first anniversary of the July Revolution, Hector Berlioz (27) writes to Charles Duveyrier from Rome that he is devoted to the social reform program of the comte de Saint-Simon. The letter will be intercepted by the agents of Prince von Metternich.
August 18, 1831: Prince von Metternich tells the Austrian ambassador in Rome to beware of Hector Berlioz (27), this “young follower of the Saint-Simonian doctrine.” He further orders that Berlioz is not to be allowed in Austrian territory and that the Vatican should be warned.
October 1, 1831: Hector Berlioz (27) and two colleagues arrive in Naples where he immediately visits the tomb of Virgil.
May 28, 1832: Hector Berlioz (28) crosses from Italy into France. Although he does not now know it, he will never see Italy again.
November 7, 1832: After a month-long trip from Italy to La Côte-St.-André and a stay of five months with his family, Hector Berlioz (28) once again reaches Paris.
November 8, 1832: Hector Berlioz (28) learns that Harriet Smithson is residing in Paris and will be appearing in English plays very shortly.
December 9, 1832: Le retour à la vie, mélologue en six parties for orchestra by Hector Berlioz (28) is performed for the first time, in the Paris Conservatoire. The work is intended as a sequel to Symphonie fantastique and will be renamed Lélio, ou Le retour à la vie. Berlioz sends tickets to Harriet Smithson through a British journalist. It is not until she enters a cab to go to the Conservatoire that her companion, the journalist Schutter, gives her the program, and she finds out whose music she will hear. Among those present are Nicolò Paganini (50), Franz Liszt (21), Frédéric Chopin (22), George Sand, Heinrich Heine, Alexandre Dumas, and Victor Hugo. Symphonie fantastique is also presented but in a much better performance than 1830. Harriet “felt the room reel about her; she heard no more, but sat in a dream, and at the end went home like a sleepwalker, hardly aware of what was happening.”
December 10, 1832: On the eve of his 29th birthday, Hector Berlioz is officially introduced to Harriet Smithson in Paris, the English actress with whom he has been infatuated for five years.
December 18, 1832: After five years and two symphonies since he first became infatuated with her, Hector Berlioz (29) hears Harriet Smithson say, “Eh bien, Berlioz...Je vous aime.”
December 19, 1832: Hector Berlioz (29) writes to Franz Liszt (21) about Harriet Smithson, “Everything about her delights and exalts me; the frank confession of her feelings has astounded me and driven me almost mad...I will never leave her. She is my star. She has understood me. If it is a mistake, you must allow me to make it; she will adorn the closing days of my life, which, I hope, will not last long...Yes, I love her! I love her! and I am loved. She told me that herself yesterday in front of her sister; yes, she loves me, but I speak of it only to you, I wish to keep my happiness secret, if it is possible. So, silence! There is nothing now which can separate us.”
December 23, 1832: An 18-page biography of Hector Berlioz (29) appears in the Revue de Paris. Signed by Joseph d’Ortigue, it is written mostly by the subject.
February 3, 1833: Hector Berlioz (29) writes to his father asking permission to marry Harriet Smithson. It will be refused.
April 14, 1833: Hector Berlioz’ (29) Intrata di Rob-Roy Macgregor for orchestra is performed for the first time, in the Paris Conservatoire. It fails.
May 2, 1833: L’Europe Littéraire, a newly founded magazine organized to foster the ideals of Romanticism, sponsors the first of a series of concerts in Paris showcasing the Romantic movement in music. Six of the eight works programmed are by Hector Berlioz (29).
July 22, 1833: Ali-Baba, ou Les quarantes voleurs, an opéra by Luigi Cherubini (72) to words of Scribe and Mélesville (pseud. of Duveyrier), is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra. During the first act, one audience member, Hector Berlioz (29), shouts “Ten francs for an idea!” In each subsequent act he raises his bid.
August 29, 1833: Hector Berlioz (29) writes to Harriet Smithson telling her that he will call on her in two days and that they will go to be married. If she refuses, he will leave within the week for Berlin.
October 3, 1833: Hector Berlioz (29) marries Harriet Constance Smithson, an actress, in the chapel of the British embassy in Paris. Franz Liszt (21) is a witness as are Ferdinand Hiller and Heinrich Heine. The service is in both English and French to accommodate the happy couple who still lack fluency in each other’s language.
November 24, 1833: A concert for the benefit of Hector Berlioz (29) and Harriet Smithson, to help pay off their (mostly her) debts, takes place at the Théâtre-Italien. Financially a success, artistically it is a fiasco. It begins an hour late. Scenes from Shakespeare and Dumas are acted by Smithson and others and the performance of (mostly) Berlioz’ music does not begin until 23:30. Franz Liszt’s (22) rendition of Weber’s (†7) Concertstück is the one bright spot of the evening. By his own admission, Berlioz conducts badly. The hour is so late, some orchestra musicians go home, as do many of the audience.
December 15, 1833: Frédéric Chopin (23), Franz Liszt (22), and Ferdinand Hiller perform JS Bach’s (†82) Concerto for three keyboards, at the Paris Conservatoire. Although reviews are positive, Hector Berlioz (30) will write, “It was heartrending, I swear, to watch three astonishing talents, full of energy, glittering with youth and vitality, apply themselves to the execution of this absurd and ridiculous psalmody.” (Zamoyski, 2010, 109)
December 22, 1833: Le roi Lear, a grand ouverture by Hector Berlioz (30) is performed for the first time, in the Paris Conservatoire. On the same program are the premieres of his songs Le jeune Pâtre Breton to words of Brizeux and Romance de Marie Tudor to words of Hugo. Nicolò Paganini (51) attends and later asks Berlioz to compose a work for him to play on the viola.
October 11, 1834: On the day after the Journal des Débats has reprinted a story by Hector Berlioz (30), the composer appears at the newspaper office to thank the editor. The editor offers him a job as music writer. Berlioz accepts and will begin in January.
November 9, 1834: Two works for male vocal quartet and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (30) are performed for the first time, in the Paris Conservatoire: Sara la baigneuse to words of Hugo and La belle voyageuse to words of Moore translated by Goumet. See 13 December 1840 and 22 October 1850.
November 23, 1834: Harold in Italy, a symphony for viola and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (30) is performed for the first time, in the Salle du Conservatoire, Paris. On the same program are two songs for soprano and orchestra by Berlioz: La captive to words of Hugo and the orchestraton of Le jeune pâtre breton to words of Brizeux. See 22 December 1833.
January 25, 1835: Hector Berlioz (31) begins his duties as concert critic at the Journal des Débats, a post he will hold for the next 28 years.
February 24, 1835: The first article written by Hector Berlioz (31) as the regular critic for the Journal des Débats appears today, signed H***.
April 9, 1835: A joint performance by Franz Liszt (23) and Hector Berlioz (31) at Salle St. Jean, Hôtel de Ville, Paris includes the premiere of Liszt’s Grande fantaisie symphonique on themes from Berlioz’ Lelio, for piano and orchestra. At the end, as he plays Grosses Konzertstück über Mendelssohns Lieder ohne Worte with Mlle Vial, Liszt collapses and is carried off.
November 22, 1835: Le cinq Mai: chant sur la mort de l’Empereur Napoléon for bass, chorus and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (31) to words of de Béranger is performed for the first time, at the Paris Conservatoire.
February 29, 1836: Les Huguenots, a grand opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer (44) to words of Scribe and Deschamps, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra. It will be one of the most successful productions ever staged at the Opéra with 1,126 performances in Paris over the next hundred years, and breaking all box office records. In the audience are Hector Berlioz (32) and Harriet Smithson. It will become Meyerbeer’s most performed work, with thousands of performances throughout the world.
November 7, 1836: The Euterpe Concert Society performs Hector Berlioz’ (32) Les Francs-Juges in Leipzig. It is the first time that Berlioz’ music has been heard in Germany.
December 5, 1837: Grande messe des morts op.5 for tenor, chorus, and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (33) is performed for the first time, in Les Invalides, Paris. The work was commissioned by the French Minister of the Interior and is used to honor General Damrémont and others killed in the conquest of Constantine, Algeria by French troops. The performance takes place before the royal family and all the powers of the nation. It is an unquestioned success.
June 4, 1838: Hector Berlioz (34) signs a document making him director of the Théatre-Italien and King Louis-Philippe legalizes it today. The whole scheme will be disapproved by the legislature.
December 16, 1838: Hector Berlioz (35) conducts an orchestral concert at the Conservatoire featuring music of Gluck (†51) and himself. Nicolò Paganini (56), frail and ill with throat cancer, is in the audience. It is the first time he hears Harold in Italy, which was composed originally for him. At the conclusion, Paganini comes on stage as Berlioz is about to leave it. His voice inaudible from the cancer, he whispers in the ear of his son Achille and then beckons him to stand on a chair. The young man proclaims, “My father says he is so moved and overwhelmed, he could go down on his knees to you.” Paganini takes Berlioz’ arm and brings him back to the platform, whereupon he kneels and kisses Berlioz’ hand.
December 18, 1838: While Hector Berlioz (35) is bedridden with bronchitis, Achille Paganini, son of the violinist (56), enters his room, hands Berlioz a letter and leaves, saying that no response is required. Inside the envelope is a note which says “Beethoven being dead, only Berlioz could make him live again; and I, who have enjoyed your divine compositions, worthy of the genius that you are, beg you to accept as token of my homage 20,000 francs, which will be remitted to you by Baron Rothschild on your presenting the enclosed. Ever your affectionate friend Nicolò Paganini.”
February 9, 1839: Hector Berlioz (35) is appointed deputy curator of the Paris Conservatoire Library. The appointment and salary are retroactive to 1 January.
November 24, 1839: Roméo et Juliette, a symphonie dramatique for solo voices, double chorus, and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (35) to words of Deschamps after Shakespeare, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Conservatoire, conducted by the composer. Dedicated to Nicolò Paganini (57), it is an unquestioned triumph. Richard Wagner (26), present either today or 1 December, is very impressed.
February 16, 1840: Hector Berlioz (36) publishes a scathing review of Donizetti’s (42) La fille du régiment in Journal des Débats.
July 28, 1840: During the tenth anniversary of the Revolution of 1830, Hector Berlioz (36) leads a 200-man band down the streets of Paris playing the premiere of his Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale. The work is greeted with great enthusiasm.
November 13, 1840: Hector Berlioz (36) is imprisoned for 24 hours in the prison on the quai d’Austerlitz for failing to report for National Guard duty on 30 July. See 28 July 1840.
December 13, 1840: Sara la Baigneuse for solo voices, chorus and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (37) to words of Hugo is performed for the first time, in the Paris Conservatoire. See 7 November 1834 and 22 October 1850.
April 25, 1841: Hector Berlioz (37) and Franz Liszt (29) produce an all-Beethoven (†14) concert at the Salle du Conservatoire to benefit the Beethoven monument in Bonn. Liszt plays various piano sonatas and the “Emperor” Concerto, conducted by Berlioz, along with the Sixth Symphony. Unfortunately, the receipts are barely enough to pay the musicians. The audience requires Liszt to play his own Reminiscences on Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable, while Berlioz and the orchestra wait. Richard Wagner (27), reviewing the concert for the Dresden Abendzeitung, is offended. “Some day, Liszt in heaven will be summoned to play his Fantasy on The Devil before the assembled company of angels.” An aspiring cellist named Jacob (Jacques) Offenbach (21) joins forces with a visiting prodigy from Russia, Anton Rubinstein (11), to perform the second and third movements of Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in A.
February 1, 1842: Reverie et caprice for violin and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (38) is performed for the first time, in the Salle Vivienne, Paris before an audience which includes Franz Liszt (30), Marie d’Agoult, and César Franck (19). Because of muscle spasms, Berlioz conducts most of the concert with his left hand.
April 14, 1842: Hector Berlioz’ (38) song Absence op.7/4 to words of Gautier is performed for the first time, in an amateur performance at the Paris home of Mortier de Fontaine. See 24 April 1842.
April 24, 1842: Absence, op.7/4 from Les Nuits d’été for voice and piano by Hector Berlioz (38) to words of Gautier, is performed publicly for the first time, in the Salle du Conservatoire, Paris. See 14 April 1842.
September 20, 1842: After leaving a note for his wife, Harriet Smithson, Hector Berlioz (38) leaves Paris with his lover, the singer Marie Recio, to go to Brussels to concertize.
October 5, 1842: Hector Berlioz (38) is presented to Leopold I, King of the Belgians in Brussels. He offers the king a manuscript copy of the Marche des pèlerins.
December 12, 1842: Hector Berlioz (39) and Marie Recio leave Paris, once again for Brussels, but with intentions of an extended tour of Germany.
December 29, 1842: Hector Berlioz’ (39) ballade La belle voyageuse for mezzo-soprano and orchestra to words of Moore translated by Gounet is performed for the first time, in Stuttgart directed by the composer.
January 1, 1843: Hector Berlioz (39) performs in Hechingen for Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Hohenzollern-Hechingen and his court in the Prince’s Concert Room.
January 17, 1843: Fearing that the insistence of his lover, Marie Recio, to sing at all his German concerts is jeopardizing the success of his tour (“she sings like a cat”), Hector Berlioz (39) boards the postal coach in Frankfurt and leaves for Weimar. Marie, however, will catch up with him there.
February 6, 1843: Hector Berlioz (39) arrives in Dresden. He meets Richard Wagner (29) who he finds “self-satisfied but warm” and enjoys Rienzi and Der fliegende Holländer. Wagner has written unkind remarks about Berlioz which appear in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt during Berlioz’ stay, but will regret them once he hears Berlioz’ music.
February 27, 1843: Hector Berlioz (39) visits Robert (32) and Clara (23) Schumann at their Leipzig home where he hears some of Robert’s chamber music. Robert is impressed by Berlioz and his music, but Clara finds him unfriendly and insincere.
March 9, 1843: Hector Berlioz (39) performs at the Ducal Theatre, Braunschweig. This is his warmest reception in Germany and he will always remember the city affectionately.
March 22, 1843: Hector Berlioz (39) performs at the Municipal Theatre, Hamburg. He is very pleased with the outcome.
April 23, 1843: Hector Berlioz (39) performs in Berlin at the Royal Opera House. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV is deeply moved by Roméo et Juliette and goes backstage to meet the composer and ask for a momento. Berlioz presents him with a manuscript copy of Fête chez Capulet.
February 3, 1844: Two new works by Hector Berlioz (40) are performed for the first time, at the Salle Herz, Paris, the composer conducting: the overture Le carnaval romain and the ballade Hélène for male vocal quartet and orchestra to words of Moore translated by Gounet. This Berlioz concert in Salle Herz marks probably the first public use of new instruments invented by Adolphe Sax: saxophones, piccolo trumpet in E flat, piccolo valved bugle in E flat, valved bugle, and bass clarinet. Berlioz’ enthusiasm for his work is “instrumental” in establishing Sax in Paris. Among today’s performers is a promising 19-year-old cornettist named J-J-B Arban.
August 1, 1844: At the Festival de l’Industrie, Paris, Hector Berlioz (40) leads 1,000 performers in the premiere of his Hymne à la France for chorus and orchestra to words of Barbier. By intermission, Berlioz has developed cold sweats. He is induced to change clothes and drink punch. He is then attended by a former teacher, Dr. Amussat, who diagnoses typhoid, lets the composer’s blood, and prescribes a vacation.
January 19, 1845: Hector Berlioz’ (41) overture Le corsaire is performed for the first time, at the Cirque Olympique, Paris directed by the composer. It is performed under the name La tour de Nice.
August 11, 1845: Today begins three days of celebrations surrounding the unveiling of the Beethoven (†18) monument in Bonn. Attenders include King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and Queen Elisabeth of Prussia, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Famous musicians include Louis Spohr (61), Giacomo Meyerbeer (53), Hector Berlioz (41), Franz Liszt (33), Pauline Viardot (24), and Jenny Lind. This evening, during dinner, a small concert is given, directed by Meyerbeer and featuring Jenny Lind.
October 22, 1845: Hector Berlioz (41) and Marie Recio depart Paris for a tour of German-speaking countries. He carries with him most of the libretto to La damnation de Faust.
November 2, 1845: Hector Berlioz (41) and his mistress Marie Recio (who promises not to sing) arrive in Vienna. He will give six concerts here.
November 6, 1845: Today sees the first of six concerts that Hector Berlioz (41) will give in the Theater an der Wien, Vienna. The composer’s time in Vienna will be very successful.
November 29, 1845: Two works for solo voice and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (41) are performed for the first time, in Vienna: Le chasseur danois to words of de Leuven, and the boléro Zaïde to words of de Beauvoir.
January 19, 1846: Hector Berlioz (42) conducts the first of three concerts in Sofia Hall, Prague. The house is packed with an attentive and appreciative audience.
February 15, 1846: At the first of two concerts at the National Theatre in Pest, Hector Berlioz (42) performs his Marche hongroise. Before leaving Vienna, the intendant of the National Theatre, told him to write something based on a Hungarian tune if he wants the Hungarians to like him and he gives Berlioz a collection to choose from. He chooses an air called Rákóczy and the piece is completed by the time he reaches Pest. Berlioz thinks that he is simply doing homage to his hosts by setting a national march, but his music inspires the revolutionary Hungarians to foot-stomping and nationalist demonstrations which drown out the orchestra. Berlioz will leave Pest a national hero.
February 20, 1846: At Hector Berlioz’ (42) second and last concert in Pest, even though prices have been raised, the National Theatre is sold out.
March 14, 1846: After hearing a performance of Mendelssohn’s (37) A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Breslau (Wroclaw), Hector Berlioz (42) writes to the composer, “I’ve never heard anything so profoundly Shakespearean in my life.”
March 20, 1846: Hector Berlioz (42) gives a concert in Breslau (Wroclaw) at the University Concert Hall.
March 31, 1846: Hector Berlioz (42) conducts the first of three more concerts in the Prague State Theatre. The public is wildly enthusiastic. His presence aids the cause of new music and helps to draw the Prague musical scene out from the spell of Mozart (†54).
June 14, 1846: Le chant des chemins de fer for tenor, chorus and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (42) to words of Janin is performed for the first time, for the opening of the Northern Railroad at the Hôtel de Ville, Lille.
July 27, 1846: Three days after 1,800 musicians perform Hector Berlioz’ (42) Apothéose in a hippodrome on the Champs-Elysées (Berlioz was unimpressed), the hippodrome burns to the ground.
December 6, 1846: Hector Berlioz’ (42) légende dramatique La damnation de Faust for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra to words of de Nerval, Gandonnière, and the composer after Goethe is performed for the first time, before a half-empty house at the Paris Opéra. The audience and critics are confused. It is his greatest failure.
December 20, 1846: Hector Berlioz’ (43) légende dramatique La damnation de Faust is given its second performance, again before a half-empty house at the Paris Opéra. The audience response is so tepid that a projected third performance is cancelled.
February 14, 1847: Hector Berlioz (43) leaves Paris for St. Petersburg. His lover, Marie Recio, is not informed of the details of his whereabouts. The trip is made during an unusually snowy winter.
February 28, 1847: After a trip of two weeks by train, postal coach and iron sled, Hector Berlioz (43) reaches St. Petersburg.
March 15, 1847: Hector Berlioz (43) gives the first of five concerts in St. Petersburg at the Assembly Hall of the Nobility. At intermission he is presented to Tsarina Alyeksandra (the Tsar is too ill to attend). Berlioz is so successful with the audience that he nets 12,000 French francs.
April 10, 1847: Hector Berlioz (43) performs in Assembly Hall of the Nobility, Moscow. His production is so successful that the public demands another performance but this is logistically impossible.
May 5, 1847: Hector Berlioz (43) conducts a performance of Roméo et Juliette in St. Petersburg. The Russian critic Stasov writes, “These were the most magnificent, most crowded, most brilliant, most deafening concerts that were presented (this) year. Everyone flocked to them; how could they do otherwise, when Berlioz has such a colossal reputation throughout all of Europe?”
August 19, 1847: Hector Berlioz (43) declines the position of Director of Singing at the Paris Opéra. On the same day he signs a contract to be music director of a newly re-founded opera company at the Drury Lane Theatre, London.
November 4, 1847: Hector Berlioz (43) arrives in London to take up his position as music director of the newly re-founded opera company at the Drury Lane Theatre.
December 6, 1847: The Drury Lane Theatre, under the direction of Hector Berlioz (43), opens for its first production, Donizetti’s (50) Lucia di Lammermoor.
February 16, 1848: Hector Berlioz (44) conducts a command performance at the Drury Lane Theatre before Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg.
June 29, 1848: Hector Berlioz’ (44) second London concert establishes his reputation with the London press. His orientale La captive for soprano and orchestra to words of Hugo is performed for the first time, at this concert.
July 14, 1848: Hector Berlioz (44) returns to Paris from England to find the city a shambles from the revolutions and intellectually inactive.
October 29, 1848: Hector Berlioz (44) directs a concert at Versailles to benefit the Association des artistes musiciens. It is very successful.
April 16, 1849: Le prophète, a grand opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer (57) to words of Scribe and Deschamps, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra. Pauline Viardot (27) takes the part of Fidès. Among the singers is a young chorister named Léo Delibes (13). It features the first use of electric light at the Opéra, in creating the illusion of a sunrise. In the audience is Hector Berlioz (45) (who calls it “matchless magnificence”) and a very ill Frédéric Chopin (39). Over the first ten days of the production, the Opéra will take in 9,000-10,000 francs per performance, an unprecedented amount. The composer will receive from his publisher the highest amount ever paid for a score.
October 22, 1850: Sara la Baigneuse for three choruses and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (46) to words of Hugo is performed for the first time, in Salle Sainte Cécile, Paris. See 7 November 1834 and 13 December 1840.
November 12, 1850: At a Société Philharmonique performance at the Salle Sainte Cécile, Hector Berlioz (46) conducts L’Adieu des bergers. He says that he found the manuscript in a cupboard at the Ste.-Chapelle and that it was composed by “Pierre Ducré, master of the music to Sainte-Chapelle, 1679.” It was composed by Berlioz and will become part of his La fuite en Egypte.
March 25, 1851: La belle voyageuse for female chorus and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (47) to words of Gounet after Moore is performed for the first time, at Salle Sainte Cécile, Paris along with the premiere of Berlioz’ La menace des Francs for double chorus and orchestra to anonymous words. Both are conducted by the composer
May 10, 1851: Hector Berlioz (47) crosses the Channel into England as one of twelve official French delegates to the Great Exhibition in London.
June 8, 1851: Hector Berlioz (47) gets into the annual Charity Children’s service in St. Paul’s, London on a pass from the organist, John Goss. He pretends to be a member of the chorus and proceeds to the organ loft. He is given a surplice and a bass part. He is overwhelmed by the experience.
December 9, 1851: Hector Berlioz (47) writes of President Bonaparte, “this coup d’etat is the work of a master; indeed, it is a veritable masterpiece.” (Bloom 1998, 123)
March 4, 1852: Hector Berlioz (48) and Marie Recio arrive in London for his third trip to England. He will conduct orchestral concerts there.
March 24, 1852: The first performance of the New Philharmonic Society takes place in Exeter Hall, London under the direction of Hector Berlioz (48). It is seen by all critics as a new era in English music making.
June 9, 1852: Hector Berlioz (48) conducts his sixth and last concert with the New Philharmonic Society in London. This concert and the entire series are a resounding success.
November 20, 1852: After a successful performance of his music in Weimar, in which several movements were repeated, Hector Berlioz (48) is granted the order of the White Falcon of Saxe-Weimar.
November 21, 1852: After dining with Grand Duke Carl Friedrich of Saxe-Weimar, Hector Berlioz (48) witnesses a second performance of his Benvenuto Cellini.
November 22, 1852: On his last night in Weimar, Hector Berlioz (48) is feted with a glittering dinner and ball in the town hall.
May 30, 1853: Le Repos de la Sainte Famille from La fuite en Egypte for chorus and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (49) to his own words is performed for the first time, in London. See 1 December 1853.
June 25, 1853: A performance of Benvenuto Cellini in an Italian translation conducted by Hector Berlioz (49) at Covent Garden before Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and King Georg V and Queen Marie of Hannover is hissed from beginning to end by a group opposed to foreign composers and musicians in what is considered an Italian house. Berlioz cancels a performance scheduled for tomorrow. Also in the audience are Crown Prince Carl Alexander of Weimar, Pauline Viardot (31), Louis Spohr (69), and George Eliot.
June 27, 1853: A testimonial concert by over 200 London musicians takes place to compensate Hector Berlioz (49) for the failure of Benvenuto Cellini.
August 3, 1853: With no immediate prospects in Paris, Hector Berlioz (49) arrives in Baden-Baden with Marie Recio to conduct a concert of his music.
August 11, 1853: Hector Berlioz (49) conducts a highly successful performance of his music in the Salle de la Conversation, Baden-Baden.
August 24, 1853: Hector Berlioz (49) conducts the first of two highly successful concerts of his music in the Comoedienhaus, Frankfurt.
October 10, 1853: In the home of Madame Patersi de Fossombroni in Paris, Franz Liszt (41) sees his three children for the first time in nine years. He has come from Switzerland with Richard Wagner (40), Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein and her daughter Princess Marie. Also present are Hector Berlioz (49) and Liszt’s mother Anna. At the request of Princess Marie, Wagner continues to read his Nibelungen poem which he had begun reading to them in Switzerland. It is the first time that Wagner lays eyes on Cosima Liszt, now just 15. It is the first time that Wagner and Berlioz have met since 1843. This is probably the only time that Liszt, Berlioz, and Wagner ever inhabited the same room.
October 22, 1853: Tonight and on 25 October, Hector Berlioz (49) conducts wildly successful performances before full houses in Brunswick.
October 28, 1853: Hector Berlioz (49) and Marie Recio hike around or up the Brocken near Bad Harzburg. It is the setting for the witches’ Sabbath from Goethe’s Faust and Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht.
December 1, 1853: La fuite en Egypte, a mystère ancien for tenor, chorus, and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (49) to his own words, is performed completely for the first time, in Leipzig conducted by the composer. Of all the cities he performs in during this tour, Leipzig gives Berlioz’ music the coolest reception. In the audience are Franz Liszt (42) and Peter Cornelius (28). After the performance, these and other musicians take Berlioz to a restaurant to cheer him up. They are soon joined by Johannes Brahms (20) who just arrived in the city after the concert. See 12 November 1850 and 30 May 1853.
December 10, 1853: Hector Berlioz gives one of many very successful concerts at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. A reception hosted by Franz Liszt (42) after the performance includes Johannes Brahms (20), Peter Cornelius (28), Ferdinand David, and several other eminent musicians. The Pauliner Singers serenade him beneath his hotel window. Tomorrow is his 50th birthday.
December 11, 1853: Amidst a very successful round of concertizing in Leipzig, Hector Berlioz is given a dinner to celebrate his 50th birthday. He is told “Why don’t you speak German, M. Berlioz? It should be your language--you are German.”
December 18, 1853: Symphony no.1 by Camille Saint-Saëns (18) is performed for the first time, anonymously in Paris. The composer sits behind Charles Gounod (35) and Hector Berlioz (50) and listens as they discuss the work in glowing terms. After learning the identity of the composer, Gounod will send him a letter saying in part, “...and remember that on Sunday, 18th December 1853, you contracted the obligation of becoming a great master.”
March 3, 1854: Harriet Smithson dies at Montmartre attended only by her nurses. Since her first stroke in 1848, she suffered from progressive paralysis, irregular breathing, skin disease and her mobility and speech were limited. Her husband, Hector Berlioz (50), visits the apartment in Montmartre and kisses the body before it is taken away for burial, then fetches a protestant pastor for the interment in the cimitière St.-Vincent. Some important literary figures attend the burial but Berlioz is too distraught to go. He spends the time in her apartment even though they were estranged since the early 1840s.
March 28, 1854: Hector Berlioz (50) conducts in Hannover again, less successfully than last year. But he is a hit with King Georg and Queen Marie.
April 22, 1854: Hector Berlioz (50) gives the first of four highly successful concerts in Dresden, conducting La damnation de Faust.
August 26, 1854: The open chair at the Institute is granted to Antoine Clapisson, over Hector Berlioz (50).
October 18, 1854: Hector Berlioz (50) writes Chapter 59 of his Mémoires which includes a description of Harriet Smithson’s death and funeral.
November 20, 1854: The first meeting of the Neu-Weimar-Verein takes place at the Russischer Hof. Charter members include Franz Liszt (43) and Peter Cornelius (29), as well as out-of-town members Hector Berlioz (50), Hans von Bülow, Joseph Joachim, and Richard Wagner (41). The purpose of the association is to further the music of the more radical Romantics: Berlioz, Wagner, Liszt, and others.
December 10, 1854: L’enfance du Christ, a trilogie sacrée for vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra by Hector Berlioz to his own words, is performed for the first time, in Salle Herz, Paris directed by the composer on the eve of his 51st birthday. It is a great success.
January 28, 1855: The first performance of Hector Berlioz’ (51) cantata in honor of Napoléon III, Le Dix Décembre, scheduled for the Théâtre-Italien, is cancelled owing to concerns about the war in the Crimea.
February 17, 1855: Piano Concerto no.1 by Franz Liszt (43) is performed for the first time, in the Ducal Palace, Weimar by the composer at the keyboard and the orchestra directed by Hector Berlioz (51). It is the first of two joint concerts in Weimar, today’s at the ducal court. These two concerts are very successful.
March 17, 1855: Hector Berlioz (51) gives the first of three concerts at the Théâtre du Cirque, Brussels.
April 30, 1855: A setting of the Te Deum by Hector Berlioz (51) is performed for the first time, at the Church of Saint-Eustache, Paris coinciding with the opening of the Paris Exposition.
June 8, 1855: Hector Berlioz (51) and his wife arrive in London for concerts with the New Philharmonic Society.
June 25, 1855: Before Richard Wagner’s (42) last concert in London, Hector Berlioz (51) dines with him. Afterwards they retire to Wagner’s lodgings and drink together until 03:00. It is the third time in two weeks that they have been together and they seem to part great friends, with promises to exchange future scores.
July 7, 1855: Hector Berlioz (51) departs London having been offered musical directorship of a series of concerts to be held at Crystal Palace. He will eventually decline the offer.
November 15, 1855: Hector Berlioz’ (51) cantata L’imperiale for double chorus and orchestra to words of Lafont is performed for the first time, at the close of the Paris Exposition in the Palais de l’Industrie. The composer conducts with the assistance of five others. Halfway through the piece, Emperor Napoléon III, on a royal throne, gives the signal for the music to stop. It does.
November 16, 1855: In the Palais de l’Industrie, Hector Berlioz’ (51) cantata L’imperiale is performed completely for the first time, as is the entire intended concert of yesterday. An audience in the thousands, which does not include Emperor Napoléon III, is very appreciative.
February 6, 1856: Le spectre de la rose for alto and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (52) to words of Gautier is performed for the first time, in Gotha.
February 24, 1856: Hector Berlioz (52) manages to make it all the way through a performance of Lohengrin conducted by Franz Liszt (44) in Weimar. At his first try, a few days ago, Berlioz left in the middle of Act II. The two friends do not talk about it very much, although Berlioz is free in expressing his disdain to others. Although Liszt and Berlioz remain friends, it will never be the same.
April 12, 1858: After almost three years of work, Hector Berlioz (54) dates the final scene of Les Troyens.
July 17, 1858: The French Minister of the Interior appoints a commission to investigate a universal pitch, what this pitch should be, and how to insure it becomes universal. Much of the investigative work will be done by Hector Berlioz (54). Other members include Daniel-François-Esprit Auber (76), Gioacchino Rossini (66), Giacomo Meyerbeer (66), Fromental Halévy (59), and Ambroise Thomas (46).
March 19, 1859: Faust, an opéra dialogué by Charles Gounod (40) to words of Barbier and Carré after Goethe, is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris. Among the onlookers are Hector Berlioz (55), Daniel Auber (77), and Eugène Delacroix. The timpanist is a Conservatoire student named Jules Massenet (16). The critics are undecided, but it does establish Gounod’s reputation.
August 6, 1859: Hector Berlioz (55) reads the poem to his unperformed opera Les Troyens to an invited audience of 20-25 people in a private house in Baden. In the evening, music from the opera is heard publicly for the first time when two duets are performed with piano accompaniment in the Salle Beethoven. On hearing the music, the composer weeps.
November 18, 1859: A new production of Christoph Willibald Gluck's (†72) Orfeo ed Euridice opens in the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris. In the title role is Pauline Viardot (38). Hector Berlioz (55) took many of the rehearsals, and the choreographer is Lucien Petipa. Viardot's costume is designed by her friend Eugène Delacroix. To the astonishment of those involved, it is a smash hit.
January 21, 1860: A package arrives at the Paris home of Hector Berlioz (56) with a note. “Dear Berlioz, I am delighted to be able to offer you the first copy of my Tristan. Accept it and keep it out of friendship for me. Richard Wagner (46).” The score is inscribed, “To the dear and great author of Romeo and Juliet, from the grateful author of Tristan und Isolde.”
January 25, 1860: Richard Wagner (46) conducts the first of three concerts of his music in Paris. Attending today at the Théâtre-Italien are Daniel Auber (77), Hector Berlioz (56), Valentin Alkan (46), Charles Gounod (41) and Pauline Viardot (38). The audience is enthusiastic but the press is merciless. Heard tonight for the first time is the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde with the concert ending composed by Wagner. Alkan leaves at intermission, later saying “Wagner is not music; it’s a sickness.” Viardot writes, "Wagner has just given a concert which exasperated three quarters of the audience and delighted the rest. Personally, I found a lot of it painful, even though I admired the vehemence of his musical feelings in certain instances. But the diminished sevenths, the discords and the crude modulations made me feverish, and I have to say that I find this sort of music loathsome and revolting." (Kendall-Davies I, 413-414) See 12 March 1859.
February 9, 1860: Hector Berlioz (56) publishes a criticism of Richard Wagner’s (46) music in the Journal des débats beginning a second Querelle des Bouffons. “If this is the religion, and a new one at that, then I am far from confessing it. I never have, am not about to, and never will. I raise my hand and swear: non credo! “
April 12, 1862: The post of permanent secretary at the Institute, made vacant by the death of Halévy last month, is granted to Charles-Ernest Beulé by a vote of 19-14 over Hector Berlioz (58).
June 13, 1862: A rehearsal of Béatrice et Bénédict at the apartment of Hector Berlioz (58) in Paris is interrupted by a telegram informing the composer that his wife, Marie-Genevieve Recio Berlioz, has suffered a heart attack while visiting friends in St.-Germain-en-Laye. He immediately leaves to attend her but by the time he arrives she is dead.
March 25, 1863: Hector Berlioz (59) donates his musical library to the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire.
April 19, 1863: Hector Berlioz (59) conducts before a full house in Löwenberg at the behest of the Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, who is, unfortunately, too ill to attend. At the conclusion, the Prince’s chamberlain presents Berlioz with the Cross of the Order of Hohenzollern.
July 4, 1863: Jules Massenet (21) wins the First Grand Prix de Rome for his setting of the cantata David Rizzio. Three of the jurors, Daniel Auber (81), Hector Berlioz (59), and Ambroise Thomas (51) are walking through the courtyard of the Louvre after the vote. They find Massenet hiding under a bench. Thomas tells him, “Give Berlioz a hug, you have him to thank for your prize.”
October 8, 1863: After journalistic efforts of 30 years, Hector Berlioz (59) contributes his last article to the Journal des débats, a review of Bizet’s (24) Les pêcheurs de perles. See 10 October 1833.
November 4, 1863: The second part of Les troyens (Les troyens à Carthage), a grand opéra by Hector Berlioz (59) to his own words, is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris. The audience applauds vociferously and critics are very enthusiastic. See 6 December 1890.
February 23, 1864: The remains of Harriet Smithson are exhumed because the cemetery where they rest is to be abolished. Hector Berlioz (60) is there to witness their placement into a new coffin after which they are transported to Montmartre Cemetery for reburial.
March 19, 1864: Mireille, an opéra dialogué by Charles Gounod (45) to words of Carré after Mistral, is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris. The first act is well received but the rest is a disaster. Hector Berlioz (60) is there but leaves before the fifth act (which begins after 24:30).
March 20, 1864: Hector Berlioz’ (60) retirement as music critic of the Journal des débats is announced in La France musicale.
March 7, 1866: As part of a charity concert, the septet from Hector Berlioz’ (62) Les troyens is performed before a packed house in the Cirque Napoléon (Cirque d'Hiver), Paris. No one sends Berlioz a ticket so he pays three francs admission for a seat very high up. The septet is encored. When he is spotted, the crowd begins yelling Vive Berlioz! Well-wishers mob him and later he receives congratulations at his home. It is his last triumph in Paris.
December 16, 1866: Hector Berlioz (63) conducts his La damnation de Faust in Vienna. Despite his failing health and declining powers as a conductor, the concert is a wild success.
June 5, 1867: Louis Berlioz, son of Hector Berlioz (63), dies of yellow fever aboard his ship, Louisiana, anchored in Havana harbor.
June 28, 1867: Hector Berlioz (63) learns of the death of his son Louis of yellow fever aboard his ship in Havana harbor three weeks ago. Exactly how he learned is not certain but he spends the rest of the day on his bed, in silence. Early next month he will go to the Conservatoire and empty the contents of a trunk, which includes programs, press clippings and the like, and burn them.
July 29, 1867: A month after learning of the death of his son, Hector Berlioz (63) prepares his will.
November 28, 1867: Hector Berlioz (63) conducts the first of six concerts he will give with the Russian Musical Society. The Frenchman is treated royally during his stay.
February 8, 1868: Hector Berlioz (64) gives the last of his St. Petersburg concerts, conducting excerpts from Roméo et Juliette, La Damnation de Faust, and Harold en Italiè. It is the last performance he will conduct.
February 17, 1868: Hector Berlioz (64) arrives home in Paris from St. Petersburg an artistic conqueror, a physical wreck.
November 25, 1868: Enfeebled since a stroke in March, Hector Berlioz (64), accompanied by his manservant, goes to the Institute to vote for a new member.
December 12, 1868: Hector Berlioz (65) attends a meeting of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris for the last time.
March 11, 1869: The funeral in memory of Hector Berlioz takes place at L’Église de la Trinité, Paris. The procession to the church is led by Adolphe Sax who directs the National Guard band in Berlioz’ Symphonie funèbre. Illustrious attenders include Daniel Auber (87), Ambroise Thomas (57), and Charles Gounod (50). The music features works of Christoph Willibald Gluck (†81), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (†77), Ludwig van Beethoven (†41), Luigi Cherubini (†26), and the Hostias from Berlioz’ own Requiem. The mortal remains of Louis-Hector Berlioz are laid to rest in Montmartre next to those of his two wives, Harriet Smithson and Marie Recio.
October 17, 1886: A statue of Hector Berlioz (†17) by Alfred Lenoir is inaugurated in the Square Vintimille, Paris.
December 6, 1890: The first part of Les Troyens, a grand opéra by Hector Berlioz (†21) to his own words, is performed for the first time, in Karlsruhe, 33 years after it was composed. See 6 August 1857, 29 August 1857, and 4 November 1863.