Discovering Berlioz – Essays, Reviews, Talks


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For the past half-century and more David Cairns has been one of the world’s pre-eminent Berlioz scholars, translating Berlioz’s freewheeling memoirs and writing a monumental biography of the composer that earned a procession of awards. But many of Cairns’ writings on Berlioz were intended for particular audiences – the Berlioz Society Bulletin, articles in books and journals, contributions to newspapers (he was a critic for The Sunday Times for 25 years) and lectures – and have never been collected between a single set of covers. Discovering Berlioz presents nearly 40 essays from the past five decades that even now throw unexpected light on this most quixotic and profound of composers – firebrand and philosopher almost in the same breath. These articles follow the chronology of Berlioz’s life, examining the influences of his provincial childhood on his music, the revelations of Virgil, Gluck, Shakespeare and Beethoven, the tribulations of his professional life in Paris, when the pressure to earn a living as a reviewer and writer robbed him of the time he should have spent on composition, and finally focusing on the masterpiece that crowned Berlioz’s difficult life, the operatic epic Les Troyens. Discovering Berlioz also charts the history of Berlioz reception: the composer who in the mid-twentieth century was regarded as an eccentric outsider is now seen as one of the most vital figures in the history of western music – a re-assessment for which David Cairns himself deserves much of the credit.


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