Home: Overview: Biographies: Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz was born in La Cote-St. Andre, on December 11, 1803. Berlioz's father was a doctor. Hector Berlioz was originally a medical student, but later he entered the Paris Conservatoire. Dr. Berlioz agreed to continue his allowance, unless his grades dropped. Mrs. Berlioz felt her son Hector had disgraced the family by choosing to become an artist. One year later, Dr. Berlioz discontinued his allowance.

Berlioz worked as an art critic, writer and as a chorus singer at a vaudeville theater while attending the conservatoire. To avoid embarrassment, Berlioz kept his chorus singer job to himself.

In 1827, he attended a production of Romeo and Juliet and met Harriet Smithson, an Irish Shakespearean actress. Berlioz fell instantly in love. Harriet was unfamiliar with his work, and their friendship did not begin until years later.

In this same year, Berlioz entered in the Prix de Rome. Dr. Berlioz admired his achievement and restarted his allowance.

Berlioz was very interested in the works of Shakespeare. He studied the English language to read more about the subject. After long efforts of organizing and planning, Berlioz gave a concert and performed the Waverley overture to prove to Harriet that he was an artist. Harriet unfortunately did not hear it.

In August 1830, Berlioz won the Prix de Rome. During this year, Berlioz met Camille Moke. Camille admired Berlioz for his character. Due to Berlioz's career, he did kept up his friendship with Camille. Over time, he worried about not hearing from her. The following year, Berlioz decided to visit Camille on his way to Italy. Later, Berlioz received a letter from Camille's mother explaining she had decided to marry a wealthy piano maker. Berlioz was said to be very angry and jealous and set to murder or commit suicide. He fortunately cooled off while traveling to Rome.

When Berlioz returned to Paris in 1832, he unknowingly moved into Harriet Smithson's old apartment. When he found out, his feelings for her resurfaced. He recontacted Harriet and invited her to his concert of Symphonie Fantastique and Lélio. The next day Harriet agreed to see Berlioz. A year later, Berlioz married Harriet. Franz Liszt was a witness to the marriage. The following year, they had one son whom they named Louis Berlioz. Professionally speaking, this was a unpleasant time for Harriet. Her career had declined, her health was poor and she turned to drinking. One year after, Berlioz was unable to accept the events of Harriet's life and found a mistress, Marie Recio, who was an opera singer.

During the next three years, Berlioz's career flourished. He traveled to Germany, Russia and London. In 1848, his father died. During 1848 and 1955, he traveling more frequently. In 1854, Harriot died.

In 1855, his work began to influence other composers and his Treatise on Instrumentation had become text book material.

In 1862, Maria died of a heart attack. In 1867, his son Louis died of yellow fever.

In 1869, he became ill and bedridden. In March 8, Berlioz died. A plaque was made in his memory in a square in Paris.

Abbreviated list of compositions:


  • Béatrice Bénédict
  • Benvenuto Cellini
  • Estelle et Némorin
  • Les Francs-juges
  • Les Troyens
  • L'Enfance du Christ


  • Béatrice et Bénédict
  • Carnaval romain
  • Corsaire, Le
  • Les Francs-juges
  • Grande Ouverture sur la Tempete
  • Rob Ro
  • Le Roi Lear
  • Waverly


  • La Captive

Orchestra work

  • Marche Funebre pour
  • Hamlet

Songs with Orchestra

  • Neuf Mélodies
  • Nuits d' été


  • Grand Symphonie funebre et triommphale
  • Harold en Italie
  • Roméo et Juliette
  • Rond du Sabbat
  • Lélio

Church Music

  • Grande Messe des Morts, Requiem
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