Monday, January 10, 2005


I was reading Wikipedia’s article on Berlioz in order to research Les Nuits d'Été and came upon the words, “a scathing satire” used to describe Evenings in the Orchestra. I must have missed that part. It’s been a long time since I read it, but “charming” is more what I would have called it. It is a one of a kind book, just as its author was a one of a kind person.

Berlioz became the first important conductor for the simple reason that he couldn’t play anything. Or at least anything you could play while indicating cues.  What would be the point of sitting down at the keyboard when you couldn’t play it? So he stood up and waved something instead. In Evenings he sat in the orchestra and watched the opera, not because he was playing but because he knew someone who was and he enjoyed the better than front row seat and the low price. He described how the opera looked from this vantage point and how he naturally adopted the point of view of the musicians, passionately adoring some, loathing some, sleeping through some.

He was an enthusiast for Spontini, a now virtually forgotten composer. He openly declared his own passions and foibles, throwing aside the god-like authority of the critic for the emotion of the enthusiast. One would wish to have written such a book oneself.

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