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Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz

Born: 11th December 1803, La Cote Saint Andre, France

Died: 8th March 1869, Paris

Nationality: French

Louis-Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer and conductor. His output includes orchestral works such as the Symphonie fantastique and Harold in Italy, choral pieces including the Requiem and L'Enfance du Christ, his three operas Benvenuto Cellini, Les Troyens and Béatrice et Bénédict, and works of hybrid genres such as the "dramatic symphony" Roméo et Juliette and the "dramatic legend" La Damnation de Faust.

The elder son of a provincial doctor, Berlioz was expected to follow his father into medicine, and he attended a Parisian medical college before defying his family by taking up music as a profession. His independence of mind and refusal to follow traditional rules and formulas put him at odds with the conservative musical establishment of Paris. He briefly moderated his style sufficiently to win France's premier music prize – the Prix de Rome – in 1830, but he learned little from the academics of the Paris Conservatoire.

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Recording of the Week, Berlioz's Les nuits d'été & Harold en Italie from John Nelson in Strasbourg

Vocal shape-shifter Michael Spyres tackles the song-cycle in the original orchestral keys, whilst viola-player Timothy Ridout is a warmly collegiate soloist in Harold on this clear-eyed, affectionate recording from Strasbourg.

Video Interview, John Nelson on Berlioz

Ahead of his performance and recording of the Grande Messe des Morts at St Paul's Cathedral tomorrow evening to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer's death, the American conductor talks to Katherine about his fifty-year relationship with music which 'lit something up in me that's remained all my life'.

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