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A monumental work, in its 1200 pages and its bibliography of an additional 150 pages, this biography of the ""misknown"" composer Berlioz is a reassessment of one of the world's few complete article in the heroic tradition. It is also the story of a life work which bears a double character as it ""brings us face to face with every familiar contemporary, raises every intellectual question, and illustrates every practical problem in the life of art"". Barzun, whose critical subtleties, artistic subtleties, artistic appreciation and very civilized prose have given a special enhancement to this earlier books, joins them here with musical scholarship of great depth. In this work, he has flanked the 25 biographical chapters of Berlioz' life with critical essays dealing with the major scores (instrumentation, melodies, structure, harmony, etc.) which are not for the more casual or ""impetuous"" reader. And he has also included a few ""interchapters"" on more general aspects, the century of romanticism, art and life, etc. One follows here the uneven, unhappy courses of his life; the spontaneous creative power which led to the young debut in Paris; the love for the un-obtainable actress, Harriet, which led much later to the marriage which dissolved as Harriet became a scold and a drinker; the long succession of his works and their performance; the neglect of his son, Louis, later a source of remorse; his contacts with all the greats of a highly creative century; the conflict of the artist with the new post-revolutionary society after 1848 and the slackening of the public's response; the writing of his monumental Les Troyens which never had a proper performance; and the last years of increasing illness and semi-obscurity, the death of Louis which was followed shortly by his own death..... A book for the serious student, library reference shelves and music schools in particular, and for a long standard sale.

Pub Date: April 3rd, 1950
Publisher: Little, Brown (Atlantic Monthly)