Lived: 1803 – 1869
Mostly in: Paris
Best known for: Symphonie fantastique, L’Enfance du Christ, Requiem, Les Troyens, La Damnation de Faust
Similar to: Gluck, Beethoven, Liszt
T he process by which Berlioz’s image changed from maverick on the margin of musical history to great composer had various causes but one crucial event. Historically, there were many reasons why he had been misjudged. He was a 19th-century composer whose lucid, linearly conceived music was impervious to the influence of that dominant 19th-century instrument, the piano and its all-important sustaining pedal; an heir of Beethoven who wrote symphonies outside the Austro-German tradition; a composer who treated harmony expressively rather than functionally and whose style, against the current of the age, was based on extended melody and rhythmic irregularity; a revolutionary Romantic who had deep Classical roots and a passion for Gluck – such characteristics, along with the formidable technical difficulty of his music, were serious barriers to understanding him.