Berlioz and London


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Explore Berlioz’s relationship with a city that was close to his heart

In the year of the 150th anniversary of the death of Hector Berlioz, Joanne Cormac examines Berlioz’s relationship with a city that was close to his heart: London.

A lifelong anglophile, the city of Shakespeare held a clear attraction for the composer. London offered a welcome alternative to the conservative employment systems in mainland Europe, where musical life still centred around courts and aristocratic patrons, and the divergent customs and performance practices of different cities were a constant headache. London’s concert life, in contrast, was public and entrepreneurial, offering diverse opportunities. Its Philharmonic Society was unusual in that, from its inception, it was actively transnational in its recruitment policies. The city’s wealth and openness attracted foreign musicians, including Berlioz. Equally, many musicians migrated to London to escape the revolutions of mainland Europe.

Drawing on letters and documents preserved in the British Library, this talk will examine Berlioz’s relationships with London’s musical institutions (including the Philharmonic Society, the New Philharmonic Society, and Covent Garden), and with central individuals in London’s musical life (including the conductors Michael Costa, Henry Wylde, and Louis Jullien, and the music critic James Davison). It will demonstrate how the British public took Berlioz to heart as a conductor, even while many – not least Queen Victoria herself - remained suspicious of his music.

Free | Ticket required

Dr Joanne Cormac is a researcher at the University of Nottingham. Her books include Liszt and the Symphonic Poem (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and 30-Second Classical Music (Ivy Press, 2017).

Image: Fragment of recitative originally intended for Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini. BL MS Mus. 1810/15


Name: Berlioz and London
Where: Foyle Visitor and Learning Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Price: Free Event: £0.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546