Hector Berlioz quotes

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Hector Berlioz

Birthdate: 11. December 1803
Date of death: 8. March 1869
Other names: Louis Hector Berlioz

Louis-Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works, and conducted several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians. He also composed around 50 songs. His influence was critical for the further development of Romanticism, especially in composers like Richard Wagner, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, and Gustav Mahler.

Works

Mémoires
Hector Berlioz
À travers chants
Hector Berlioz

Quotes Hector Berlioz

„Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.“

—  Hector Berlioz

Le temps est un grand maître, dit-on; le malheur est qu'il soit un maître inhumain qui tue ses élèves.
Letter written in November 1856, published in Pierre Citron (ed.) Correspondance générale (Paris: Flammarion, 1989) vol. 5, p. 390; Paul Davies About Time: Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996) p. 214.

„The author of The Prophet not only has the good luck to have talent, he has also the talent to have good luck.“

—  Hector Berlioz

L'auteur de ce Prophète a non seulement le bonheur d'avoir du talent, mais aussi le talent d'avoir du bonheur.
Les soirées de l'orchestre (1852), ch. 5 http://www.hberlioz.com/Writings/SO05.htm; Jacques Barzun (trans.) Evenings with the Orchestra (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999) p. 62.

„You request me to tell you…if it is true that the creed of all who profess to love high and serious art is: "There is no God but Bach, and Mendelssohn is his prophet?"“

—  Hector Berlioz, Mémoires

Vous me priez de vous dire…S'il est vrai que l'acte de foi de tout ce qui prétend aimer l'art élevé et sérieux soit celui-ci : "Il n'y a pas d'autre Dieu que Bach, et Mendelssohn est son prophète"?
"Premier Voyage en Allemagne", Quatrième lettre, p. 285
Mémoires (1870)

„I feel grateful to the happy chance which forced me to compose freely and in silence, and has thus delivered me from the tyranny of the fingers, so dangerous to thought.“

—  Hector Berlioz, Mémoires

Je ne puis m'empêcher de rendre grâces au hasard qui m'a mis dans la nécessité de parvenir à composer silencieusement et librement, en me garantissant ainsi de la tyrannie des habitudes des doigts, si dangereuses pour la pensée.
On being unable to master the piano.
Source: Mémoires (1870), Ch. 4, p. 14

„A singer who is able to sing even sixteen measures of good music in a natural and engaging way, effortlessly and in tune, without distending the phrase, without exaggerating accents to the point of caricature, without platitude, affectation, or coyness, without making grammatical mistakes, without illicit slurs, without hiatus or hiccup, without making insolent changes in the text, without barks or bleats, without sour notes, without crippling the rhythm, without absurd ornaments and nauseating appoggiaturas – in short, a singer able to sing these measures simply and exactly as the composer wrote them – is a rare, very rare, exceedingly rare bird.“

—  Hector Berlioz, book À travers chants

Un chanteur ou une cantatrice capable de chanter seize mesures seulement de bonne musique avec une voix naturelle, bien posée, sympathique, et de les chanter sans efforts, sans écarteler la phrase, sans exagérer jusqu'à la charge les accents, sans platitude, sans afféterie, sans mièvreries, sans fautes de français, sans liaisons dangereuses, sans hiatus, sans insolentes modifications du texte, sans transposition, sans hoquets, sans aboiements, sans chevrotements, sans intonations fausses, sans faire boiter le rhythme, sans ridicules ornements, sans nauséabondes appogiatures, de manière enfin que la période écrite par le compositeur devienne compréhensible, et reste tout simplement ce qu'il l'a faite, est un oiseau rare, très-rare, excessivement rare.
À travers chants, ch. 8 http://www.hberlioz.com/Writings/ATC08.htm; Elizabeth Csicsery-Rónay (trans.) The Art of Music and Other Essays (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994) p. 69.

„Poor devils! Where do these unfortunate creatures come from? On what butcher's block will they meet their end? What reward does municipal munificence allot them for thus cleaning (or dirtying) the pavements of Paris? At what age are they sent to the glue factory? What becomes of their bones (their skin is good for nothing)?“

—  Hector Berlioz

Pauvres diables!... D'où sortent ces malheureux êtres ?... À quel Montfaucon vont-ils mourir ?... Que leur octroie la munificence municipale pour nettoyer (ou salir) ainsi le pavé de Paris ?... À quel âge les envoie-t-on à l'équarrissage ?... Que fait-on de leurs os ? (leur peau n'est bonne à rien.)
Les Grotesques de la Musique (Paris: A. Bourdilliat, 1859) p. 89; Alastair Bruce (trans.) The Musical Madhouse (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2003) pp. 54-56.
Of critics

„Instrumentation is to music precisely what color is to painting.“

—  Hector Berlioz

Cette face de l’instrumentation est exactement, en musique, ce que le coloris est en peinture.
A travers chants (1862), ch. 1 http://www.hberlioz.com/Writings/ATC01.htm; Elizabeth Csicsery-Rónay (trans.) The Art of Music and Other Essays (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994) p. 5.

„That is, in fact, the true female voice of the orchestra – a voice at once passionate and chaste, heart-rending, yet soft, which can weep, sigh, and lament, chant, pray, and muse, or burst forth into joyous accents, as none other can do.“

—  Hector Berlioz

C'est la vraie voix féminine de l'orchestre, voix passionnée et chaste en même temps, déchirante et douce, qui pleure et crie et se lamente, ou chante et prie et rêve, ou éclate en accents joyeux, comme nulle autre pourrait le faire.
Grand Traité d'Instrumentation et d'Orchestration Modernes (1844) http://www.hberlioz.com/Scores/BerliozTraite.html#Violon; Mary Cowden Clarke (trans.) A Treatise upon Modern Instrumentation and Orchestration (London: J. Alfred Novello, 1856) p. 25.
Of the violin.

„This sudden and unexpected revelation of Shakespeare overwhelmed me. The lightning-flash of his genius revealed the whole heaven of art to me, illuminating its remotest depths in a single flash. I recognised the meaning of real grandeur, real beauty, and the real dramatic truth.“

—  Hector Berlioz, Mémoires

Shakespeare, en tombant ainsi sur moi à l'improviste, me foudroya. Son éclair, en m'ouvrant le ciel de l'art avec un fracas sublime, m'en illumina les plus lointaines profondeurs. Je reconnus la vraie grandeur, la vraie beauté, la vraie vérité dramatiques.
Source: Mémoires (1870), Ch. 18, p. 66

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