Cover image for Berlioz
Holoman, D. Kern, 1947-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1989.
Physical Description:
687 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


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ML410.B5 H58 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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For three decades, beginning with the Symphonie fantastique composed in 1830, Hector Berlioz and his music embodied the élan and exuberance of the Romantic era. This captivating and sumptuously illustrated biography is not only a complete account of Berlioz's life, but an acute analysis of his compositions and description of his work as conductor and critic, as well as a vivid picture of his musical world.

D. Kern Holoman paints a full-length portrait of Berlioz: his personal and family life, his intellectual development and pursuits, his methods of composing (Berlioz at his work table, so to speak), the aim and style of his music criticism and travel writing, his innovations in staging and conducting performances, and his interaction with other composers, including Liszt, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Schumann, Glinka, Brahms, Verdi, Saint-Saëns, Gounod. In discussing Berlioz's music, Holoman talks about specific techniques, takes note of influences and borrowings, and analyzes the concept of programmatic music developed in Symphonie fantastique , Harold in Italy , Romeo and Juliet , and The Damnation of Faust .

While following Berlioz's career, we get a rich sense of the world in which he moved. We see the requirements and excitements of foreign concert tours, the music publishing and instrument-making businesses, the development of the modern concept of orchestral conducting, the use of newspapers for publicity, the composer's working relations with impresarios and soloists.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

As one of the editors of the New Berlioz Edition of the composer's music, Holoman can be expected to deliver an informed and expertly researched account of the romantic musician's life. The author combines a strictly biographical narrative with analysis of Berlioz' musical texts, illustrating just how the composer developed as an artist. The account never bogs down into too much detail, and the passages of musical analysis go swiftly to the heart of Berlioz' sophisticated and experimental style. Berlioz' role as a prototypical romantic artist is also examined in this revealing look at an artist's life and work. Appendixes, bibliography; index. --John Brosnahan

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this beautifully written book, Holoman, professor of music at the University of California, presents a comprehensive account of the life and works of the romantic composer whose brilliant music and eccentric life style dazzled and disconcerted his contemporaries. Without overemphasizing the sensational aspects of Hector Berlioz's turbulent personal life (1803-1869), the author skillfully weaves together autobiographical details and musical analysis, examining in depth the composer's working methods and artistic development, and giving penetrating insights into some of his best-known works, including the Symphonie fantastique and Harold in Italy . He also treats in depth Berlioz's many other accomplishments and demonstrates how his skills as a conductor, music critic, orchestra builder and concert producer placed him in the forefront of musical life in 19th-century Europe. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

It has been 40 years since Jacques Barzun first published his celebrated Berlioz and the Romantic Century ( LJ 3/15/50). Although notable studies have appeared since then, Holoman (author of the first thematic catalog of Berlioz's works) offers an exceptional account of Berlioz's life, work, and the world in which he lived. From the composer's diligent quest for the Prix de Rome to his place in history as the acclaimed successor to Beethoven, this scholarly tome reads like a novel replete with convincing music analyses, exquisite illustrations, and revealing observations on the composer as conductor, critic, and author. Appendixes include lists of compositions, writings, and concerts. Highly recommended. --William J. Waters, Pensacola Jr. Coll., Fla. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In the past 15 years Holoman has published specialized studies and articles on Berlioz and also prepared a major edition and thematic index for the New Berlioz Edition, ed. by H. Macdonald et al. (1967). This last undertaking was an excellent preparation for writing a biography since the NBE includes passages from the correspondence and establishes a definitive chronology of Berlioz's output. In this fine biography, Holoman's chapters on the life contain particularly interesting material and are more detailed than NBE editor Hugh Macdonald's excellent Berlioz (CH, Jun'84). Holoman also comments on the development of Berlioz's distinctive style (in four chapters called "portraits" of the artist) in fluent, stylish prose. The book incorporates much information uncovered in the explosion of Berlioz research since the 1960s and is a worthy, full-length replacement for Jacques Barzun's standard, two-volume Berlioz and the Romantic Century (3rd ed., 1969). US libraries may also want to compare Holoman's with a recent British biography, David Cairns's Berlioz (London, 1989). Holoman's useful, annotated, selective bibliography surveys both recent and older sources. Other appendixes list Berlioz's works, major performances, and prose writings. Though there are a few omissions in the index, the book has been well produced, with numerous photographs, facsimile reprints of manuscripts, and caricatures and other drawings by Berlioz's contemporaries. Both undergraduate and graduate libraries. -L.A. Wright, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Table of Contents

1 "The Real Berlioz"
2 La Côte-St.-André (1803-21)
3 The Latin Quarter and the Boulevards (1821-30)
4 The Emergence of a Style: Les Francs-Juges and Symphonie fantastique
5 A Sojourn--A Courtship--A Birth (18311-34)
6 Affairs of State (1834-40)
7 Portrait in 1839-40: Works of the Golden Decade
8 Vagabondage (1840-46)
9 Portrait in 1846: La Damnation de Faust
10 The Paris Problem (1847-52)
11 The Princess Carolyne--The Fair Ophelia (1852-59)
12 Portrait in 1859: Les Troyens
13 Parnassus (1860-63)
14 Marche funèbre (1864-69)
Appendix A Compositions
Appendix B Prose Writings
Appendix C Concerts
List of Illustrations
Index of Compositions
General index