Throughout his career, many opposed Hector Berlioz and his revolutionary music, but none more so than composer and crusty Paris Conservatoire Director Luigi Cherubini.

The first meeting between the two musicians was anything but cordial. In his memoirs Berlioz recounts visiting the Conservatoire library one morning to study some scores by Gluck. He was unaware, however, that Cherubini had instated a new rule forbidding men and women to use the same entrance. Berlioz accordingly entered the Conservatoire through the Rue Bergère door, as he was accustomed.

He was quickly stopped by a servant who instructed him to leave the building and re-enter via the male door on Faubourg-Poissonnière. Never easily intimidated, Berlioz laughed off the command as preposterous. The affronted servant refused to admit defeat, however, and departed to report the flagrant rule violation to higher powers. Fifteen minutes later, a furious Cherubini arrived in the reading room with the servant in tow. Berlioz described his first impression of the venerable Italian composer as “cadaverous, with the most roughcast hair, the most malicious eyes and of a step more jerked than usual”.

“So you are the man who dares to come in by the door I have forbidden you to enter?” Cherubini...

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