Hector Berlioz – Chant des Chemin de Fer
(b. La Côte-St.-André, 11 December 1803 — d. Paris, 8 March 1869)
The romantic generation
Arthur Lovejoy wrote in 1924 that “the word romantic has come to mean so many things that, in itself, it means nothing” (quoted in Abrams, 1975, p. 6)1. According to Walter Frisch in his book Music in the Nineteenth Century (2013)2, it is difficult to chronologically delimit the musical period understood as Romanticism. He points out that only by taking an approach that combines time and context, we can have a complete vision of the “very dense network of composers, interpreters, publishers, promoters, scores, oral traditions, audiences, institutions, cities and nations” that the nineteenth century encompasses (Frisch, 2013, p.12).
Although it cannot be properly considered a school, since they did not develop a cohesive style, the “generation of the 1830s” (Rosen, 1998)3, that consisted of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), his sister Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847 ), Franz Liszt (1811-1886), Clara Schumann (1819-1896), Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and Richard Wagner (1813-1883) in the German sphere; Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), Pauline Viardot (1821-1910) and Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) in the French sphere and Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) in Italy, made up the musical elite of the second third of the 19th century, in which the bases of a more direct connection with the public through new compositional and musical strategies (Frisch, 2013) was established.
Without a doubt, one of the symbolic figures of the first French romanticism, who was a source of inspiration for the new generation, is Victor Hugo. Berlioz himself would extrapolate Victor Hugo’s artistic ideology to music through his Symphonie fantastique of 1830. This work, which represented a turning point in the way in which he had been composing so far and which, however, would take several decades in being truly understood, transmits, according to the author himself “the passage from this state of melancholic reverie, interrupted by several fits of joy for no reason, to another state of unbridled passion, with its movements of fury, jealousy, its return to tenderness, her tears, her religious consolations”4 (Berlioz, 1971, p. 23). …
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