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The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz (Everyman's Library (Cloth)) Hardcover – 2002

4.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library (2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037541391X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375413919
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #838,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Anyone familiar with the works of Oscar Wilde will of course know where the "take-off" above comes from. And how trenchantly - even scathingly - funny that particular work is, even to the point where some folks have fun citing extended passages at will, out loud, just for the "yuks" it contains. Well, add "The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz" to that short list.

I am now barely 100 pages into this screamer, after having recently concluded reading the magisterial and sympathetic two-volume biography of Berlioz by David Cairns (who also provides the perfect translation of these Memoirs). Frankly, I wasn't sure that I could handle "yet more Berlioz" so soon after finishing the Cairns volumes (although Cairns provided plenty of justification, in terms of his ability to pinpoint Berlioz's scathing wit).

I shouldn't have worried.

Berlioz is certainly famous among music lovers, and musicians and composers, for a long list of "firsts": The first to take the proto-Romantic beginnings started so auspiciously by Beethoven to new heights, the first to expand the size (and instruments) of the classical orchestra to something closely resembling today's symphony orchestra, the first to write a detailed study on the uses of the instruments in the orchestra, including the effects of venue acoustics on the orchestra's sound... It's a long list, and this is just a part of it.

But Berlioz was also a brilliant writer. Inter alia, his "feuilletons" (music & arts criticism for the cultural journals of his time) and his "Evenings in the Orchestra" (including several of his better feuilletons) showed both his brilliance as a writer on the arts and his scathing wit.
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Format: Paperback
The other reviews pretty much sum up the qualities of Berlioz's writing. Like others, I find is prose more inviting than his music. Immensely candid, entertaining and wonderfully written, it would be a great shame if only musicians were to read it - it's enjoyable on so many levels. The only reason I decided to write this was to urge anyone thinking of buying it to get hold of David Cairns' more modern translation. It reads far more fluently and somehow seems to get inside Berlioz's character in a way that the older translation doesn't. It also has among the appendices a valuable dissection of the contentious points and parts where Berlioz was economical with the truth.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The inimitable Hector Berlioz was a prolific writer (perhaps he missed his true calling). His memoirs are an irresistible and captivating read, giving us an all too brief window into his life-long struggles, both personally and professionally. Cairns did a bang-up job at translation (no real complaints here) and the Everyman's edition is splendidly printed.
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By ct reader on December 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a rare, surprisingly lucid, firsthand account of the life of one of the most influential and innovative composers in history. Descriptions of contemporaries, the artist's balance of art/business, and the intimate history of specific works (Fantastique, Harold, Faust, Les Troyens, etc) are valuable to those interested in classical music and period history.
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Format: Paperback
Is this guy for real?! Hector Berlioz seems too amazing to be true: I knew he was a superb music composer but I applaud him even more as an enchanting story teller. I should have guessed that the man who came up with the Symphonie Fantastique (a symphony with a story plot) could recount the extraordinary events of his life with such vivacity and good timing. And he did have some extraordinary events in his life. Exuberant, tortured, starving, successful, in love, angered, whatever the state of Berlioz's life, he lived it fully. At times soap opera-esque (I almost fell over reading about how he plotted to dress up as a maid and kill his faithless fiance), this book was a true joy to read. Thanks, Berlioz!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I find this translation of Berlioz's memoirs to be highly entertaining. If you are serious about scholarship then yes, you probably want to check another English version for comparison. But for pure musico-literary enjoyment, I don't think you can go wrong with this choice. Nearly every page has either some insight into Berlioz himself, his music, or French musical culture at the time, or just some outright humorous remark, often in Berlioz's characteristic hyperbole.
I may be ambivalent about Berlioz's actual musical output from time to time, but this edition is a hands-down favorite of mine.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well first of all, having a nice cloth binding with an attached ribbon book mark is just nice to have. I miss these kind of "old school" binding and it really does give reading the book class! I love Hector Berlioz, his writing is hilarious, mainly because he is extremely pompous about himself and is NOT shy about it! It is extremely easy to read, he writes as if it's a novel and it was a truly a fun time reading about his crazy composition and love life. I would recommend this to any classical music fanatic or even anyone who is into reading into the drama filled back lives of composers!
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Format: Paperback
I found this book engrossing, and I don't even particularly like Berlioz' music. He was bombastic, egotistical and extremely adept at telling a story. By the first paragraph I was hooked: "During the months which preceded my birth, my mother never dreamt, as Virgil's did, that she was about to bring forth a branch of laurel.... Strange, I admit, but true. I came into the world quite naturally, unheralded by any of the signs which, in poetic ages, preceded the advent of remarkable personages." I'll never forget the scene in which Berlioz, whose tragedies never seemed to end, had to go to the cemetery in Montmartre to attend the exhumation of the remains of his former wife. Always lively, Berlioz describes his travels and the people (famous and not so) that both adorned and plagued his world. "While posting from Berlin to Tilsit I had the ill-luck to have a music-mad courier, who tormented me dreadfully the whole time I was with him.... He had a mania for composing polkas and waltzes for the piano. He used to stop at the post-houses sometimes for an unconscionable time, and there, while he was supposed to be reckoning with the landlord, he was engaged in ruling music paper and jotting down the dance tune he had been whistling for the last three hours." The famous Hector Berlioz was then expected to "write the bass and harmony to it." An entertaining read, and an education.
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