Tuesday, December 11, 2012
French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz was born on December 11, 1803. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works, and he performed several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians. Between 1830 and 1840, he wrote many of his most popular works, including the Symphonie fantastique (1830), Harold en Italie (1834), the Grande messe des morts (Requiem) (1837) and Roméo et Juliette (1839). The Requiem calls for a vast orchestration of woodwind and brass instruments, including four antiphonal offstage brass ensembles placed at the corners of the concert stage. Berlioz composed the Symphonie fantastique (subtitled “An Episode in the Life of an Artist, in Five Parts”) for an Irish actress, Harriet Smithson, with whom he fell in love after seeing her as Ophelia in a performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet. They married in 1833 but separated in bitterness.