Bose Presents Berlioz
For a little background, Berlioz is one of the few legendary composers who was not also a performer. He studied music from treatises and sheet music rather than being groomed at the piano bench like virtuoso performers Liszt, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and so many others. He had to study in secret because his parents expected him to be a doctor. How lucky we are that the doctor thing didn’t work out!
I was on the Metro the other day listening to one of my favorite pieces, the second movement of The Symphonie Fantasique, when an elderly gentleman tugged on my sleeve and asked what I was listening to. I guess he wasn’t scared off by the tattoos and wanted to know what music could possibly set this long-haired roughneck’s foot tapping, and provoking an ear-to-ear smile. When I told him it was Berlioz, he told me a great story.
When the French Revolution of 1830 was beginning, Hector was at his
desk in his third-floor apartment in
How cool! To add to the drama, it has been established that, years later, the composer had plotted to dress up as a woman, slip into the house of the woman with whom he was obsessively in love and kill her, her fiancé and her mother. This plot was foiled when, in the carriage halfway to her house, he realized he’d left part of his disguise behind, after which he realized the foolishness of his plan and gave up.
These unexpected little vignettes add a sense of realness and
humanity to these larger-than-life figures, and to the recordings we listen to.
Now, whenever I listen to the 2nd movement of the Fantastique, which is so light and lush,
I picture old Hector jogging down the dark cobblestone streets of