Berlioz: Volume One: The Making of an Artist, 1803-1832 / Edition 1

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Overview

This biography of composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) describes with unprecedented intimacy, affection, and respect the life of one of France's greatest artists. After long being regarded as an oddity and an eccentric figure, Berlioz is now being accepted into the ranks of the great composers. Based on a wealth of previously unpublished sources, and on a profound understanding of the humanity of his subject, David Cairns's book provides a full account of this extraordinary and powerfully attractive man.

Berlioz, Volume I, previously published only in Britain, is now available to American readers in a revised edition, together with the eagerly awaited, new Volume II. These two volumes together comprise a monumental biographical achievement, sure to stand as the definitive Berlioz biography.


In researching Berlioz's life, Cairns has had access to unpublished family papers, and in Volume I he is able to portray all the people close to Berlioz in his boyhood, and to evoke a detailed picture of their lives in and around La Côte St.-André in the foothills of the French Alps. No artist's achievement connects more directly with early experience than that of Berlioz, whose passionate sensibility began to absorb the material of his art long before he had heard any musical ensemble other than the local town band. Volume I also traces the student years in Paris and Italy and discusses Berlioz's three great love affairs, shedding remarkable light on his later character and development. Volume I ends on the afternoon of December 9, 1832, the day of the concert that launched the composer's career.

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Editorial Reviews

NY Times Book Review
An outstanding biography.
Washington Post Book World
If only [Berlioz's] detractors could have read this monumental two-volume life of the artist. One comes away stunned by the book's scope, its heroic and faithful portrait of the man, its astute and elegant readings of his under-appreciated scores, its sweeping study of the Romantic movement. BERLIOZ is simply one of the grandest, most penetrating musical biographies of our time.
Washington Post Book World
If only [Berlioz's] detractors could have read this monumental two-volume life of the artist. One comes away stunned by the book's scope, its heroic and faithful portrait of the man, its astute and elegant readings of his under-appreciated scores, its sweeping study of the Romantic movement. Berlioz is simply one of the grandest, most penetrating musical biographies of our time.
Hugh MacDonald
We now have a biography that not only takes in the immense documentation of Berlioz's early life but goes far beyond it in piecing together an incomparably rich portrait of the man and his milieu...The picture is so vivid and the prose so magnetic that not a word seems wasted...Cairns's biography of Berlioz must take its place with the handful of great lives of composers, such as Thayer's Beethoven, Newman's Wagner, and Walker's Wolf.
Listener
Roger Norrington
This biography is kindled by sympathy and enthusiasm for its subject, and is written with a lifelong professional experience of Berlioz behind it. It is also beautifully and interestingly written. The chapters flow together like Berlioz's own harmonic changes, and with equal resonance.
Independent
Times Literary Supplement
It is clear that not one of the many hours of reading, listening and thinking, and not one of the many miles of travelling which Cairns has devoted to his subject has been wasted. The reader is left with a comprehensive record of Berlioz's view of the world and with a sense of having suffered his hardships and shared his triumphs: servitude and greatness indeed. It is hard to imagine that any new biography of Berlioz will be needed fifty, or even a hundred, years from now.
Washington Post Book World
If only [Berlioz's] detractors could have read this monumental two-volume life of the artist. One comes away stunned by the book's scope, its heroic and faithful portrait of the man, its astute and elegant readings of his under-appreciated scores, its sweeping study of the Romantic movement. Berlioz is simply one of the grandest, most penetrating musical biographies of our time.
Max Loppert
Even at this halfway stage, [Cairns's] Berlioz stands as one of the great biographies of our day, and also one of the great feats of literary sympathy with an artistic genius, filled with a love, knowledge, and understanding of his subject that flame up on every page.
Financial Times
Dallas Morning News
Just as Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, Les Troyens and Requiem usually leave listeners stunned and exhilarated, so David Cairns' massive biography will have readers gasping for breath as they turn each page…A project bound to stand as long as the music is heard. As overwhelming as the music.
Philadelphia Inquirer
David Cairns spent 40 years working on this biography. The vastness of its scale is altogether appropriate to its subject. To be sure, it takes a considerable commitment of time and effort to get through these two volumes. But they are well worth it, since one finished with the sense of having almost lived for a space of time with a great and honorable man.
The Economist
Thoroughly comprehensive and utterly captivating...Mr. Cairns's two volumes, despite their 1,335 pages of text, create a sharp appetite for more. A massive life-but, for us, at least-worth the cost.
Rocky Mountain News
An outstanding biography argues persuasively that Berlioz was 'the greatest French composer between Rameau and Dubussy.
Coward
Cairns tells the story with sober elegance and uncommon sympathy. He is a marvelous guide to the musical life and aesthetic arguments of 19th-century Europe . . . But he also brings Berlioz close to us . . . Cairns [is] one of the great musical biographers.
The New York Times Book Review
Joseph Kerman
The strength of Cairn's biography lies in its thoroughness of research, its amplitude, its authoritly, and its author's remarkable sensitivity and sympathy for Berlioz...remarkably successful in imparting quotidian detail while still holding the reader's attention.
New Republic
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520221994
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 3/30/2000
  • Series: Berlioz Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 672
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.88 (d)

Meet the Author

David Cairns was chief music critic of the Sunday Times from 1983 to 1992, having earlier been music critic and arts editor of the Spectator and a writer for the Financial Times and the New Statesman. From 1967 to 1972 he worked for the London branch of Phonogram. He has been Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California, Davis, and a visiting scholar at the Getty Center in Santa Monica.

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