BERLIOZ AND OTHER FRENCHMEN
FRENCH composers have made their reputation in opera, for the most part. But Berlioz was an exception to this rule; and he won his way into the ranks of the leaders by his great orchestral works.
Hector Berlioz was born at Côte-Saint-André, near Lyons, in 1803. His father was a doctor, and expected the son to follow in his footsteps. By 1822the boy wad sent to a medical school in Paris; but he soon began devoting his time to the study of scores, particularly those of Gluck and Beethoven. In a short time there came a definite breach between father and son, the young man clinging to music. As a result, he was thrown upon his own resources; and he sang in a theatre chorus to gain a livelihood.
His conservatory studies were pursued under LeSueur, who was almost the only teacher not antagonistic to him. Berlioz began to show his radical tendencies at the start; and Cherubini, on looking at some of the pupil's work, dismissed it with an equivalent of the slang phrase "Nix verstay." He was called unfit to compete for the Prix de Rome, though after many attempts he reached that goal with his cantata "Sardanapale." His "Messe Solennelle," the overtures "Waverley" and "Les Francs Juges," and an opera were among his previous attempts at fame.
In the mean while he had seen a beautiful Irish actress, named Harriet Smithson, and fallen deeply in love with her. As a token of his feelings, he produced the "Symphonie Fantastique." This notable work consists of five movements, picturing episodes in the life of an artist. In the first movement he sees his ideal, and falls in love with her; and the fair one is typified by a definite theme. But his love is unrequited, and he seeks various scenes to help him forget her. The second movement is a ballroom picture, with fragments of dance music suggesting themselves, and being woven about the theme of the loved one. The third movement, "In the Fields," is a pleasing rustic scene, with a dialogue between a shepherd and a shepherdess