The Hector Berlioz Website

Berlioz and France


Contents of this page:

The visit of 1845  
The sequel  
Selection of letters  
Lyon in pictures

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    ‘I am almost a native from Lyon’ wrote Berlioz to the conductor George Hainl when preparing the ground for his first concert in Lyon in July 1845, and he went on to describe the people of Lyon as his compatriots, who could be expected to show some interest in his musical projects (CG no. 972). ‘I must tell you first that I was born in the vicinity of that great city and that in my capacity of compatriot of the people of Lyon I was entitled to expect their total indifference’, was how he put it ironically in 1848. Berlioz’s native town of La Côte-Saint-André was about 75 kms from Lyon, slightly further than Grenoble, and geographically part of the same region. Although there is no direct evidence that Berlioz visited Lyon in his early years, apart from a brief stay in February 1831 on his way to Marseille (CG nos. 208, 209) and a stop in November 1832 on the return journey from Italy to Paris (CG no. 289), he was evidently familiar with the city before he went there in 1845, as the letter referred to shows (for example, he knew which hotel to go to and its location). Relations between La Côte and Lyon had always been close: Berlioz’s first music teacher Imbert was from Lyon, where he played second violin in the Théâtre des Célestins, and returned to Lyon after his time as teacher in La Côte (Memoirs ch. 4). It so happens that Berlioz’s second music teacher Dorant, a native from Colmar, was living in the town of Vienne near Lyon at the time of his visit in July 1845 and was able to participate in his concerts. A friend he had met at the Villa Medici in Rome during his Italian stay of 1831-2, the painter Isidore Flacheron, was also in Lyon at the time (CG no. 987; cf. Memoirs chs. 37, 38, 41). It was natural therefore that Lyon should be on his musical horizon from an early date. Soon after his return from Italy and his marriage with Harriet Smithson, in October 1833, Berlioz was already considering a possible visit to Lyon to give a concert there, though in the end nothing came of this (CG nos. 347, 360). A feuilleton of 1834 shows awareness on his part of recent developments on the musical scene in Lyon (Critique Musicale I pp. 271-2).

    In 1840 George Hainl (1807-1873), a cellist by training (he won a first prize at the Paris Conservatoire) was appointed conductor at the Grand-Théâtre in Lyon, where he was to remain till 1863. It is very likely that Berlioz had already met Hainl during his time in Paris, though their known correspondence only begins in 1845 and was initially formal in tone. But it appears that Hainl soon showed interest in inviting Berlioz to Lyon: while travelling in Germany in February 1843 Berlioz was informed by his friend Auguste Morel in Paris of an approach by Hainl about participating in a music festival in Lyon, though at the time Berlioz was less than enthusiastic and nothing came of this (CG no. 815). The following year (1844) there was another approach from Lyon, presumably again involving Hainl, though Berlioz was too busy at the time to follow this up (CG no. 902). Interest in Berlioz was also shown in the neighbouring city of Châlons-sur-Saône: from October of this year Berlioz was in correspondence with an enthusiastic amateur there, Buy-Fournier, concerning the project for a local festival. In the event, after months of intermittent correspondence till 1846, nothing came of this (CG nos. 922, 939, 956, 1043), though Buy-Fournier was able to provide assistance to Berlioz in his concerts in Lyon in July 1845 (CG no. 976).

The visit of 1845

    Berlioz thus had good reason to expect a sympathetic reception should he decide to go to Lyon. Yet surprisingly, it appears that when in June 1845 he set out for Marseille, in the company of Marie Recio, he had as yet no plans for a concert visit to Lyon on his way to or from Marseille, and he certainly did not mention any such plans when writing to his sisters on 6th June from Paris, shortly before his departure (CG nos. 968, 969). He must have passed through Lyon on his way to Marseille, as he had done in 1831 (CG no. 210), but it is not known whether he stopped and made any soundings at that time, and it seems that it was only during his stay in Marseille that he started actively planning for a concert in Lyon as a follow-up to the two he gave in Marseille in June 1845.

    Unlike his visit to Marseille, the visit to Lyon the following month is well documented: extant are several letters to the conductor George Hainl, to his two sisters, and a few to other correspondents involved in one way or another with the preparation of the two concerts which he eventually gave in the Grand Théâtre in Lyon, on 20 and 24 July. There is also at the Bibliothèque nationale de France a letter of his sister Adèle to his other sister Nanci (or Nancy), dated 10 July and concerning the arrival of their brother in Lyon to give a concert; the original text of this letter is reproduced elsewhere on this site. And there is a contemporary announcement in the Journal des Débats (9 July 1845, p. 2; see below). Three years later, in 1848, Berlioz wrote up an account of his visit to Lyon, similar in tone and style to the account of his visit to Marseille, which was first published in the form of a letter in the Revue et gazette musicale on 15 October 1848 [CM VI pp. 415-24]. The part concerning Lyon is dated 8 October of that year, though the earlier part of the letter carries the date July 1848 in Paris, i.e. shortly after Berlioz’s return from London. The letter was reproduced by Berlioz in 1859, with a few cuts but also additions, in the Grotesques de la musique. The account adds some details to the evidence of the correspondence, but will not be reproduced here at length, as Berlioz’s correspondence provides plentiful information, some of which is not to be found in the account of 1848/1859 (references to it subsequently will be to the version in the Grotesques).

    It was during his stay in Marseille that Berlioz got in touch with George Hainl about a possible concert in Lyon; this is stated in the account in the Grotesques, and is implied in the first preserved letter to Hainl which is dated 2 July, after Berlioz had left Marseille and while he was on his way from Avignon to Lyon by boat up the river (CG no. 972). In writing to Hainl Berlioz was evidently applying the lessons he had learned from his experience in Marseille, on the need for suitable publicity, his instrumental requirements (extra players had to be brought in from neighbouring cities), the rehearsals needed, and the importance of avoiding clashing with the appearances in Lyon of a celebrated actress: the costs and expected benefits of the operation were uppermost in this mind. He evidently received a satisfactory response from Hainl after his arrival in Lyon on 4 or 5 July and preparations started. As well as the local publicity mentioned in the first letter to Hainl, the first concert was announced in advance in Paris in a notice inserted in the Journal des Débats on 9th July 1845 (p. 2), no doubt at Berlioz’s request and probably written by himself. After referring to the two concerts he had just given in Marseille, the notice reads:

During his stay in Lyon M. Berlioz has been asked by the Society of Artists of this city to conduct a great festival which will take place on Sunday 20 July, in which the most distinguished singers and instrumental players of Lyon, Dijon, Châlons and Grenoble will take part. Rehearsals have already started.

    Shortly after his arrival in Lyon, Berlioz got in touch with his sister Adèle, who since May had been living in Vienne; this emerges from the letter of Adèle to her sister of 10 July. The Suat received the letter on Monday 7 July, and set off without delay for Lyon, where they met Berlioz the day after and had lunch together; they returned to Vienne in the evening (8 July). During their meeting Berlioz must have told them of another letter he had just written to her the day before, which they received on their return to Vienne (CG no. 974). This letter and a similar one to Nanci in Grenoble written the same day (CG no. 975) informed them of his intention to pay a visit to his father in La Côte two days later. On 9 July, on his own and without Marie Recio, he made the trip by stagecoach from Lyon to La Frette, a village near La Côte, and walked the rest of the distance (about 9 kms) to La Côte; after a day spent with his father he returned to Lyon during the night. Neither of his sisters were able to join him tin La Côte; Adèle was too busy, and Nanci, who was at the time in Voreppe and not in Grenoble, may not have received her brother’s letter in time. But both came, together with Nanci’s daughter Mathilde, to attend his concert on 20 July, and Berlioz booked accommodation for them at a hotel in Lyon (CG no. 977). But Berlioz’s father did not make the trip, nor did his uncle Marmion.

    The letter to Nanci gives detailed information on the preparations for the concert and the large programme, which included similar music as Berlioz had played in Marseille, his own works and music by other composers: the Roman Carnival overture, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th movements from the Symphonie fantastique, the 2nd movement from Harold en Italie, the last movement of the Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, the Hymne à la France, Le Cinq mai, Weber’s Invitation to the Dance as orchestrated by Berlioz, and excerpts from operas by Gluck, Grétry and Weber. Further information is provided by a letter of 14 July addressed to Buy-Fournier, his correspondent in Châlons-sur-Saône who contributed a few extra players for the concert (CG no. 976). Throughout George Hainl was unfailingly helpful and Berlioz made a point of including a warm tribute to him in the account of his trip he published in 1848:

As for George Hainl, the conductor of the Lyon orchestra, here is a brief sketch of him. His superior talent as a performer on the cello is widely acknowledged and has earned him a fine reputation among virtuoso players. To this he adds the qualities of a conductor who is also an instructor and an organiser: he conducts in a clear, precise, warm and expressive way; when performing new works, he knows how to pinpoint shortcomings in execution and remedy them as well as available musical resources allow; in general he knows how to organise and get the best out of the players at his disposal, keep his musical patch in good order and overcome quickly the practical difficulties which usually get in the way of every aspect of music-making, particularly in the provinces. This implies that as well as conviction he possesses a keen mind and indefatigable perseverance. He has done more for the progress of music in Lyon than his predecessors did in half a century.

    Berlioz goes on to relate how Hainl not only conducted the chorus, but played in the orchestra as required parts for cello, percussion, timpani, and even the harp, though not a harpist himself.

    Berlioz had initially planned to give only one concert in Lyon, but the concert was successful enough to persuade him to repeat it on 24 July, though the audience at the second concert, and consequently the takings, was much smaller (the same had happened the previous month in Marseille). Berlioz admitted this in a letter to Nanci (CG no. 981), in which he also alludes to delicate personal matters he had not been able to conceal from his sisters: the broken state of his marriage with Harriet Smithson, and Marie Recio’s presence in Lyon. But he did not introduce Marie Recio to them during their visit to Lyon, which prompted embarrassing speculations on the part of Nanci as to her identity, and comments on his matrimonial circumstances which he found unwelcome.

    After being entertained in Lyon, Berlioz planned to depart on the evening of 26 July, as shown by the letter to Nanci (cf. also CG no. 979). Several letters of thanks are extant, addressed to those who had helped as singers or players to make the concerts possible (CG nos. 979, 980, 982, 983); three of these were reproduced in the local press not long after. The last two letters show that Berlioz was still in Lyon on 27 July. He must have departed that day or very shortly after, possibly by boat up the river to Châlons and thence to Paris, and he was back in Paris on 1 August (CG no. 985); on arrival he lost no time in writing a personal letter of thanks to Hainl (CG no. 987).

    During their visit in 1845 Berlioz and Marie Recio stayed at Hôtel du Parc near the Place des Terreaux.

The sequel

    Barely back in Paris Berlioz was already preparing to depart to Bonn to attend the Beethoven festivities there (CG no. 987), where he saw again George Hainl who only stayed for part of the festival; Hainl is mentioned in the report of the festival which Berlioz published in the Journal des Débats soon after (22 August and 3 September) and reproduced in 1852 in the Soirées de l’orchestre (by contrast, the report on the visit to Lyon had to wait to 1848 to be written and published). On his return from Bonn Berlioz was in touch again with Hainl, and indicated his interest in contributing in the future to the annual festival in Lyon (CG no. 996). In subsequent years Berlioz will have passed through Lyon on a number of occasions, whenever he went to visit his sister Adèle in Vienne or travelled to Grenoble: Lyon was the inevitable transit point on the way to both. But these journeys were for personal, not musical reasons, and Berlioz never took part in any concert in Lyon after 1845.

    Hainl was clearly well-disposed and would certainly have welcomed Berlioz and his music back. Berlioz on his side generally thought well of Hainl as a musician and conductor; for example he suggested to Hainl in 1846 that he might want to consider the post of conductor at the Opéra in place of the ailing Habeneck, a post which Berlioz had ruled out for himself (CG no. 1049; nothing happened). But the visit to Lyon in 1845, like the visit to Marseille, had only confirmed Berlioz’s old doubts about the quality of music-making in France’s provincial cities. Writing in 1843 of his experiences in Italy as winner of the Prix de Rome, Berlioz stated that ‘Lyon, Châlons and Auxerre provide the same musical resources as the capital of the Christian world’, a remark as damaging to the French cities concerned as it was to Rome. Berlioz’s attitude to Hainl also seems equivocal. When in 1850 Hainl approached Berlioz again in relation to the annual festival Berlioz’s reply was very guarded (CG no. 1366). The following year, to an enquiry by the publisher Catelin concerning a possible performance of his Symphonie funèbre at the Lyon festival, he replied in very discouraging terms (CG no. 1373); no performance took place. A few years later, early in March 1855, and clearly responding to the success of l’Enfance du Christ in Paris the previous December, Hainl took it on himself to perform in Lyon the short overture to La Fuite en Égypte but without consulting Berlioz. Berlioz was furious and said so to his relatives (CG nos. 1910, 1913), and though he was less outspoken to Hainl himself a month later his displeasure was evident (CG no. 1938). Two years later there was another brush, when asked by Hainl to arrange a march from Spontini’s Olympie for the Lyon festival Berlioz would have none of this (CG no. 2199ter [vol. VIII]); he maintained his opposition a week later and actively discouraged performing his orchestral arrangement of Weber’s Invitation to the Dance (CG no. 2201). He lost no time in writing to Spontini’s widow to tell her of the episode in rather scathing terms, though the letter shows Hainl had relented and promised to play the march as written: ‘he at least knows how to conduct’ (CG no. 2202).

    It may be noted that Berlioz never showed any interest in Hainl’s own music (contrast his long support for Auguste Morel as a composer), but outwardly Berlioz remained courteous to him and never suspected him of any malice. In 1857 he praised the quality of his cello playing (Journal des Débats, 7 May 1857). In 1863 the post of conductor at the Opéra became vacant, and Berlioz privately expressed interest (CG no. 2688), but the appointment went to Hainl. Berlioz bore him no malice and went on to refer in generally complimentary terms to Hainl’s conducting at the Opéra in the penultimate feuilleton he wrote (Journal des Débats, 3 September 1863). In December 1863 Berlioz now formally applied for the post of conductor of the Conservatoire (CG no. 2812), but once again the post went to Hainl. In the Postface of his Memoirs, written in 1864, Berlioz welcomed the appointment: ‘The Société du Conservatoire, now conducted by one of my friends, M. George Hainl, is no longer hostile to me. From time to time it is prepared to perform excerpts from my scores’. Berlioz’s correspondence for 1864 provides some echoes of this, though in the end the experience was not a happy one. Berlioz had to postpone a proposed performance of excerpts from Roméo et Juliette because the allocated rehearsal time seemed to him inadequate (CG no. 2843). He hoped to have the septet and duet from Les Troyens (act 4) played at a concert in December 1864, but in the end this fell through (CG nos. 2932, 2933, 2937). The last references to Hainl in the correspondence are negative: while Berlioz thought and said that Hainl was in general a capable conductor, when it came to the rehearsals of Gluck’s Alceste at the Opéra in the autumn of 1866 he felt Hainl was simply out of his depth (CG nos. 3162, 3166).


    An account of Berlioz’s relations with Lyon would be incomplete without mention of one episode to which Berlioz gives exceptional prominence in the last section of his Memoirs. He recalls how in September 1864 he made a trip to Vienne (via Lyon) to see his sister’s family, and followed this with another pilgrimage to Grenoble and Meylan, after which he went to Lyon to see Mme Fornier, his childhood idol, whose address in Lyon his brother-in-law had found for him (56 Avenue de Noaille). He wrote her a letter, cited in the Memoirs and dated 23 September 1864 (CG no. 2897), the day of the visit, and relates at length the events of that day: his meeting with Mme Fornier, the first since their last brief encounter in 1832 (Memoirs ch. 3), and his dinner that evening with the young singer Adelina Patti, the day before she was to perform in Rossini’s Barber of Seville. Adelina Patti accompanied him to the railway station for the overnight train to Paris (a direct rail link had existed since 1856). On arrival in Paris the day after he immediately wrote to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein about his trip to Dauphiné, but without as yet explaining any of the details (CG no. 2898). For Berlioz that visit to Lyon on 23 September 1864 had without doubt vastly more significance than the visit of July 1845.

Selection of letters

    All the known letters to George Hainl are listed below chronologically year by year. All translations are © Michel Austin.


To his sister Adèle (CG no. 347; 6 October, from Vincennes):

[…] I am going to put on a little concert which will cost nothing, the proceeds of which will therefore be pure profit. In a month or two I may go to Lyon to give an enormous concert; Harriet will accompany me and this winter we will both travel to Prussia where the terms of my pension oblige me to go. She has just been offered a fairly advantageous engagement there to perform English tragedy. […]

To his sister Adèle (CG no. 360; 3 November, from Paris):

[…] We may be going to Lyon in a while, before our departure for Germany; if the plan has something to offer I would go there to give concerts. […]


To Auguste Morel (CG no. 815; 18 February, from Dresden):

[…] Write to George Hainl that if the festival takes place in May I will be there, if he makes me an acceptable offer; I confess that I have no wish to spend my money to go to Lyon. I would like to see something other than the Symphonie funèbre performed, I would like to conduct my music, and know what the composition of the orchestra will be. […]


To his sister Nanci (CG no. 902; 19 May, from Paris):

[…] I am also receiving offers from Lyon; and with all this I must finish my book on Italy, correct the proofs of my symphonies, and organise an immense undertaking etc. […]


To George Hainl (CG no. 972; 2 July, from Avignon):

I have to sail up the Rhône and consequently cannot arrive in Lyon before Friday [4th July]; my letter will therefore reach you first.
I would like to give a concert in Lyon, but only on condition we are able to do something significant. We need to achieve takings of 9-10,000 francs, by raising the price of seats, sending posters to neighbouring cities such as Châlons, Mâcon, Vienne, Bourgoin, Nantua, Belley, etc., and displaying them on steamers up the Rhône and Saône. If this is a pipe-dream, then forget about it; there is no point in setting in motion all your musical world in Lyon to achieve an ordinary result. Besides I am so tired of rehearsing, this job of drill sergeant has so wrecked me in Marseille that it will take a great effort on my part to get started again
For the programme I have in mind I require: […] (Berlioz gives details of the instrumental forces needed —  an orchestra of 64 strings, 10 wind, 12 brass, and 6 percussion, total 92, plus a second orchestra of 13 wind, 7 brass and 4 percussion, and in addition a chorus of 100 plus two solo singers) […]
Each musician of the large orchestra would need one sectional and two general rehearsals; one would be enough for the military band, two at the most. The amount of rehearsal needed for the chorus would depend on whether it is composed of good sight-readers or not.
It is out of the question that I should come in August, so I must go before or during the appearance of Rachel [a celebrated actress], and announce that this Music Festival will be my only appearance.
I am quite prepared to accept the conditions for sharing the takings after deducting 500 francs for expenses, though these must include not only the cost of hiring the theatre with lighting and decorations, the orchestra and the theatre’s chorus, but also that of the four-step raised platform on the stage with a floor covering the usual orchestra pit. They should also include the double posters which will have to be issued 4 times in runs of at least 60, with another 50 copies reserved and sent to various locations as mentioned above. In Marseille they only deducted 300 francs for expenses, and in Lyon we have a far better chance of having large takings.
Please see whether this is feasible, my dear Mr. Hainl, and at the same time whether the collectors of the poor-tax will be satisfied with only 1/10th as happened in Marseille and is always the case with my concerts in Paris.
There should be a fair amount of curiosity among my compatriots (I am almost a native from Lyon) and it is reasonable to expect a fairly large audience. We must take full advantage of this and give the concert as soon as possible, as I do not have much time available.
I will be staying at the Hôtel du Parc near Place des Terreaux, and I hope to find a note from you on arrival. […]
P.S. The expenses for the additional band will be shared between the management of the theatre and myself. But we must try to get at no expense a supplement of choristers and string players, and invite capable amateur players and singers.

To his sister Adèle (CG no. 974; probably 7 July, from Lyon):

I am going to lunch at La Côte at noon next Wednesday (the day after tomorrow) [9 July]; I will have to depart at 10 in the evening, please come so that we spend a day together with our father. […]
P.S. The Lyon Festival will take place on the 20th, and I do not have a single day without rehearsals.

To his sister Nanci (CG no. 975; 7 July, from Lyon):

I am taking advantage of a day without rehearsals that require my presence at all costs to go and embrace our father. So come to La Côte that day. I have informed Adèle. The stagecoach will drop me at La Frette on Wednesday, the day after tomorrow, at 11 in the morning and will pick me up at 1 o’clock in the morning.
The Festival will take place on the 20th and I am already exhausted thanks to the gentle Senegalese temperature we are enjoying. […]
If Camille could send me some sort of transport to take me from La Frette to La Côte that would be very kind of him; otherwise I will walk the distance in spite of the sun.

To Buy-Fournier (CG no. 976; 14 July, from Lyon):

Very many thanks for your kindness in coming promptly to our help. Unfortunately space in the theatre is too constricted by the already narrow sets; this makes it difficult to accommodate our numerous players, and we will not be able to fit in the extra musicians that you are kindly offering us. We have counted on Châlons for 4 violins (I have reserved for them two desks of first violins), one viola and one cello. The orchestra is now well trained, and will go on its own at the next rehearsal; it is therefore important that the players you are kindly sending us be at the theatre at 11 in the morning next Saturday to familiarise themselves with the music before the general rehearsal, which will take place in the evening. George Hainl or myself will rehearse them so that there is no hitch.
I do not know the correspondent in Dijon whom George has approached and have no news of the contingent from this city; so as not to delay my answer I am not waiting to receive the information you are requesting. Besides, it will now be too late for the people from Dijon, and if more than 4 of them come we will not be able to make use of them. […]

To his sister Nanci (CG no. 977; 16 July, from Lyon):

I never imagined that you would not make the trip to Lyon; but I wrote to you so that all three of us would be reunited with our father on the day when I was able to go to La Côte. Besides, Adèle whom I saw and whom you will have seen on receiving my letter will have informed you.
Everything is full at the Hôtel du Parc, so I booked for Adèle and for you two rooms with two beds for Saturday evening at the Hôtel du Nord next to the theatre.
I am rehearsing non-stop with one group or another, sometimes at the Cercle, sometimes at the theatre, then at the barracks of an army regiment. Everything will go fine, provided the outsiders from Dijon and Châlons do not do anything silly. Everyone is showing much zeal and enthusiasm, though I expect a few hitches that the public will not notice. Adèle was keen to come to the last rehearsal, but I am anxious that you should not see me dabbling in my musical kitchen, and I therefore ask you to hear me only when everything is ready.
I believe the programme is well chosen for the occasion, for the audience, and for the musicians I will have. What has most struck my players so far is the Scene in the countryside of the Symphonie fantastique, the overture Roman Carnival and Le Cinq mai. Unfortunately I no longer have Alizard to sing this last piece, and the singer here has an uneven voice and is not a musician; every one of his entries makes me nervous. I am going to get him to study his part further later on to reassure myself. Next Saturday I will be busy all day with the stage-hands who have to organise the theatre and with the musicians, but between two chores I will find the time to go and embrace you if you arrive early enough. In any case send for me at the theatre as soon as you have settled in. The box was reserved for you long ago, so this reproach is no more justified than the other one. So Camille has not been able to liberate himself. My father never thought for a moment of making the trip. As for my uncle I doubt he will come: but since I have you I am more than satisfied.
Rachel begun yesterday her performances in front of a half-full theatre; she must be in a terrible temper. The people of Lyon are very resistant to the increase in the price of the seats, though I hope we will get a large audience. […]

To George Hainl (CG no. 980; 26 July, from Lyon):

My dear George
I was very pleased and proud of the sympathetic welcome I received from all the musicians of the Grand-Théâtre on the occasion of the concerts I have just given in Lyon. Orchestra, chorus, the ladies and gentlemen of the choral societies, all outdid each other in zeal and attentiveness in making a success of our musical undertaking and presenting my works in the best possible light. Please convey to them my sincere compliments and express to them my warm gratitude. […]

To his sister Nanci (CG no. 981; 26 July, from Lyon):

[…] The second concert attracted a far smaller audience than the first, as we had forecast when we heard that Rachel was performing Andromaque the night before and Virginie the day after. Fortunately, the public was much warmer than the first day and they made up with their applause for the deficit in the takings…
I am leaving this evening for Paris. Your letter is written with as much warmth as tact and good sense. It would be too long and pointless to reply; it is a long story, the elements of which I am unable to change… The impossible state of my domestic situation and the fixation or disease of Harriet have all brought this about; nothing can stand up to such a misfortune, not even the keen affection I still have for her. As for the person you mention to me, she does not bear the name I cited before you. This lady has a relationship with Méry and not with me.
Farewell, do not write to me any more about this, it is pointless, and above all I do not want my father to be upset by this, and I hope that no one will be stupid enough in our silly country to go and tell him about it. […]

To George Hainl (CG no. 987; 2 August, from Paris):

[…] You should be receiving one of these days two copies of my Voyage musical en Allemagne et en Italie, one is for you and the other for Isidore Flacheron, and I would be obliged if you would make sure it reaches him. I was hoping to hear from you yesterday about the little cameo-brooch which Marie forgot at the hotel and which I requested you to ask for, but perhaps it has not been found. I have read the article from la Clochette and I believe I must thank you for it. The excursion to Lyon is having an excellent effect here. I am preparing to depart any moment for Bonn, where everyone is going. […]
Farewell. Many greetings to M. Maniquet, who is really the kindest man one could find, despite his apparent coldness.
Marie and I greet Mme George and we embrace your two charming little girls.
As for you… I have nothing to say. I have been able to appreciate you in every way, and what I think and feel is easy to guess. […]

To George Hainl (CG no. 996; 26 September, from Paris):

[…] Your sudden departure [from Bonn] surprised and even upset us all, so much so that I was wondering whether you might have some reason to be annoyed… Since that is not the case then all is well. I have been searching at the Conservatoire for the harp-player you require, but it is not possible to make any offer to the player who would be willing to go to Lyon since you do not tell me on what terms he would be engaged. Please correct this omission as soon as possible.
I am leaving for Vienna around the 10th of next month, so do not waste any time. I have two works in progress at the moment which we will have to perform in Lyon one day. In the meantime we have plenty of others, and you know that there is nothing I would like as much as to contribute to the best of my ability to the brilliance of your annual concert. But because of the difficulties in performance I believe it would be better not to be too categorical about the large excerpts from Benvenuto you talked to me about. Here at least it would be rather difficult to put them on in a concert.
Marie gives you her greetings and sends her regards to Mme George and to the two charming sisters. […]

    See also CG no. 982 (to George Hainl)


To George Hainl (CG no. 1049; 21 or 23 July, from Paris):

[…] Habeneck is digging in and will not let go of his podium. I have completely fallen out with the management of Pillet and Stoltz and will not make any approach. In any case they do not want a conductor, but a sort of chief servant who will carry out the orders of the Lady Director and will find wonderful everything she does or gets done. See whether this opportunity tempts you and above all do not hold back because of me. […]
Give my regards to Mme George and to the two pretty young ladies.


To George Hainl (CG no. 1366; 14 December, from Paris):

[…] The question of which choruses I should recommend to you is very simple, it is the same everywhere in France; you are looking for choruses such as are seldom if ever to be seen, choruses which can be sung well and make a great effect, by a small number of singers, who are neither musicians nor singers, and who do not need MANY rehearsals.
So my answer therefore is not: take my bear, but do not take my bear. Sing a chorus by Verdi, in unison, on two or three notes. Those who like those notes will be very satisfied. And if any awkward music-lover objects, say to him in answer: This had to be!!!
If you have a hundred well-trained choristers, with good voices, in that case take the first chorus of Athalie by Mendelssohn (The whole universe is filled with his magnificence!) and have it preceded by the overture of this same work. But you will need at least 4 harps which you do not have and which I believe would be difficult to replace with guitars or MANDOLINS. A pity, because that overture is magnificent! […]
Farewell, give my regards to Mme Hainl and send my greetings to our friends in the orchestra of the Grand Théâtre. […]


To Adolphe Catelin (CG no. 1373; 10 January, from Paris):

[…] To perform at the Grand Théâtre in Lyon the finale of my Symphonie funèbre et triomphale you require: […] (there follows a listing of the instruments and singers needed) […].
I strongly urge George Hainl not to perform the Funeral March or the Funeral Oration, but to begin with the Apotheosis omitting only the chord of G major at the beginning of this piece, and which happens to be the last chord of the previous movement.
Send him this letter.
If he does not rehearse the 1st and 2nd drums separately they will not play a single note of their part. They must be positioned fairly near the conductor and far away from the bass drum and the cymbals. The choral parts are very difficult. […]


    See CG no. 1586bis [vol. VIII] (to George Hainl)


To his brother-in-law Marc Suat (CG no. 1910; 5 March, from Paris):

[…] What a strange idea to go to Lyon to hear this small fragment of my work massacred!… […]

To his sister Adèle (CG no. 1913; 10 March, from Paris):

[…] In Lyon they ruined the fragment from La Fuite en Égypte; your husband does not tell me, but a person I do not know has written to me a very nice letter in which he complains of my absence and of the indiscretion of Hainl in performing in Lyon such a piece, and he adds many sarcastic comments on the public in Lyon and on the performance.
On the other hand I met in the street the other day a young man (also unknown) who stops me to say that it had not gone badly and that the public had received it well. Consequently I do not believe anything, and besides it is not worth thinking about. […]

To George Hainl (CG no. 1938; 14 April, from Paris):

[…] Will you be kind enough to insert the enclosed advertisement where you can in the papers in Lyon? [for the performance of the Te Deum at St Eustache] You will greatly oblige me. It is a major undertaking and it has to be drummed into the ears of the exhibitors, or I will be very exposed. It costs 7,000 francs. Among the performers the only ones to come free are the 500 children who sing the Chorale. Do what you can.
So it seems you have played a hoax on the silk-workers of Lyon with my Fuite en Égypte!… [there is an untranslatable pun in the French text on the words canuler (play a hoax) and canut (silk-worker)] Some stranger wrote to me from Lyon a very amiable letter in which he told me that the public seemed to be wondering what the devil it all meant… […]


To George Hainl (CG no. 2199ter [vol. VIII]; 9 January, from Paris):

[…] I am very sorry not to be able to do what you are asking me, but everything is against it. I am working ceaselessly on a score which is taking up all my time [Les Troyens]; in addition, it is altogether against my ways of thinking to get involved in ‘derangements’ of this kind. The march from Olympie does not need any crude military bands, its orchestration is opulent enough as it stands. I pity you with all my heart for being obliged to endure these kind of demands on the part of your public. Besides, you will not have enough harps for the hymn which is in the middle of the march, and without harps it will all be colourless. […]

To George Hainl (CG no. 2201; 16 January, from Paris):

[…] I have received the parcel and tomorrow it will be taken to the post. You will have trouble finding the number of trumpets needed for performing the march from Olympie, and you will only find as a poor substitute miserable cornets incapable of playing the high G, and for them you will have to transpose the parts in F for cornets in A. It will be miserable and all the high notes will either go wrong or will have to be transposed an octave lower, and this does not make any sense. Unless a revolution has taken place in the provinces since I went there, and you know that we had the greatest difficulty finding two poor trumpets.
My music for the Invitation to the Dance by Weber is bound with five overtures which at the moment are in Weimar. Otherwise I would have been glad to send it to you. Besides it costs so little to buy this music from Brandus that it is not worth the costs involved in sending and returning the music. But only a single harp, that will be pathetic! We have always performed this piece in London and here in Paris with at least 16 harps. It will sound miserable. It would be better not to play this piece, and you will find twenty others that will have more of an impact on your bourgeois audience. […]

To Madame Spontini (CG no. 2202; 17 January, from Paris):

[…] But here is something else which nearly happened in Lyon. George Hainl, the conductor of the Grand Théâtre, gives every year a very large concert. This solemn occasion (and it is one), will take place in a few weeks. Now would you believe that he has just suggested to me to introduce a hullabaloo of infantry music, doubled with another brass band of cavalry, in the triumphal march of Olympie?… I replied to him as I had to, by conveying to him the irreverence and foolishness of such a project. Fortunately he understood my letter, and I have just received another one from him, where he makes amends and assures me that the march will be performed as written by the author. Only they will have to make do with a single harp. I also gave him some advice on the trumpets, which in the provinces they now habitually replace with cornets. So I think he will do his best.
And this man at least does know how to conduct an orchestra. […]
P.S. Should I receive further news from Lyon, I will lose no time in letting you know. […]


To Toussaint Bennet (CG no. 2843; 15 March, from Paris):

[…] I went to ask George Hainl to postpone the performance of excerpts from Roméo et Juliette till next year; I could see that they would not have the time at the moment to rehearse this with enough care, and I have no wish to have a half-baked performance. […]

To princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein (CG no. 2898; 24 September, from Paris):

[…] I have spent the night in the train, and am returning from a trip to Dauphiné; I find a bundle of letters, I read yours, and I find again, but even greater than before, the heart, the soul and the spirit I know. […] My heart is, if not torn to shreds, but at least wounded, and crushed under the blows that memory has dealt during this trip. I will tell you elsewhere and at length all the sad twists and turns of this pilgrimage. To talk about them today is an unspeakable pain; forgive me, and let me count on you. The effect of these sublime landscapes of the Alps and the mountains which precede them, the silence of this vast orchard where the Isère winds its way, the solitude of these rocky paths, made me drink in abundance from the wells of a suffering which cannot be conveyed to anyone who does not know the whole of my life. A sad and solemn episode in my passage in Lyon… forgive me, dear Princess, I am stupid, but I beg you, always remain indulgent and kind and clear-sighted as you are. […]

    See also CG nos. 2847, 2932, 2933 (all to George Hainl)


To Asger Hamerik (CG no. 3162; 20 September, in Paris):

[…] I spoke to the conductor [George Hainl] to have you admitted at the first orchestral rehearsal of Alceste, next Tuesday. He is not willing, probably because he does not want to be seen groping around in a work which he does not yet know. But you will come to the dress rehearsal. […]

To his niece Joséphine Suat (CG no. 3166; 5 October, from Paris):

[…] Joking apart, my poor Joséphine, I am very sad. Imagine that the performance of Alceste is postponed for the third time, although all the singers and dancers know their parts perfectly, because the conductor [George Hainl] does not know his… He causes havoc everywhere at the general rehearsals. He knows nothing, feels nothing, and understands nothing. Such a fine orchestra!… The director offered me to conduct, but I was not prepared to do this shocking insult to poor George; but I admit it is hard to see such a masterpiece in such hands. […]


    See CG nos. 3247, 3280 (both to George Hainl)

Lyon and Châlons-sur-Saône in pictures

Unless otherwise stated, all the photos on this page were taken by Michel Austin in September 2011 and other pictures have been scanned from engravings, postcards and other publications in our own collections. © Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin. All rights of reproduction reserved.

We are most grateful to M. Thierry Nugier for detailed and helpful information regarding the history and structure of the Pont de l’Archevêque and the Pont Tilsitt, across the Saône.

I. Lyon in times past

1.1 General views

Lyon in the 18th century

(Large view)

The above 19th century engraving shows the Pont de l’Archevêque, a wooden bridge which existed from 1634 to 1781 (see also next picture).

Lyon in 1844

(Large view)

The above engraving shows the Pont Tilsitt, which was built in 1807 at a much lower level than the Pont de l’Archevêque. This bridge, made of stone, existed until 1863. 

Lyon c. 1890

(Large view)

 Lyon in 1842 – Pont Tilsitt

(Large view)

An original copy of this daguérotype is in the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon . We are most grateful to M. Thierry Nugier for sending us an electronic copy of the photo.

1.2 Fourvière Hill

After the concerts he gave in Lyon, Berlioz was invited to dinner by a learned society, modestly called the Société des Intelligences or Society of Brains, at a pavilion at the top of the hill of Fourvière which overlooks the city of Lyon. The account he gives of this episode is found only in the Grotesques de la musique and was not in the original letter he published in 1848 about his trip to Lyon. Here is an excerpt:

In my capacity as an ordinary human being who is no orator, I was invited to attempt the climb of the mountain of Fourvière, to have dinner there 360 feet — what am I saying? 853 feet — above the level of the Saône river, in a pavilion rather similar to the one where one day the devil whisked away our Lord Jesus-Christ to show to him all the kingdoms of the world. That devil was not very competent, at least not in geology, so our Lord had no trouble in proving to him that he was an ass and sending him off with a flea in his ear. To come back to the pavilion of Fourvière, from which one can also see all the kingdoms of the earth, as far as la Guillotière included [a district of Lyon], I found there gathered together the brains of Lyon, twenty-four in number.

Berlioz goes on to give a light-hearted account of the meeting.

Fourvière Hill in the 19th century

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View of Fourvière from the banks of the Saône c. 1890

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The bridge on the left is the second Pont Tilsitt, which was also built in stone in 1863 and was destroyed by the German army in 1944.

1.3 Lyon Cathedral 

Lyon Cathedral in 1840 (rear view)

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Lyon Cathedral in 1844 (front view)

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1.4 Pont Morand on the Rhône

On the day Berlioz saw Madame Fornier in Lyon for the first time in many years (23 September 1864), he paid two visits to her at her home, one in the morning and again later in the day. He relates in the Memoirs how he spent some of his time in between:

I was wandering around in the vicinity of her house; sometimes I would bump into trees in the Brotteaux district, sometimes I would pause to contemplate, from the top of the Morand bridge, the stormy flow of the river Rhône; I would then resume my feverish walk, without knowing why I was going to one side rather than to the other, when I met M. Strakosch, the brother-in-law of the celebrated singer Adelina Patti.

The origin of the bridge dates back to 1776 when the construction of a wooden bridge over the Rhône was completed. The architect was Jean-Antoine Morand de Jouffrey. The bridge has been given different names over its long history: pont Saint-Clair, pont Affranchi and pont des Victoires, among others, and was eventually named after the architect Morand in 1810. In 1825 it collapsed and was later replaced by a new one. That bridge was in turn replaced in 1890 by a metal bridge built on stone pillars. In 1944 it was severely damaged by the Germans and reconstructed by 1948; it was subsequently demolished in 1974. The present bridge, in pre-stressed concrete, was inaugurated in 1976. 

Pont St Clair in the 1780s

(Large view)

The above watercolour is courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Pont Morand view from les Brotteaux

(Large view)

The above painting is by Victor Fonville (1805-1856), a lithograph of which was published in Promenade à Lyon, lithographie de H. Brunet à Lyon, 1830-1834. The above picture is reproduced here courtesy of the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon.

Pont Morand c. 1898

(Large view)

This postcard shows a view of the bridge towards the area where Madame Fornier’s flat was located; the card was posted from Lyon on 14 August 1898.

Pont Morand before its destruction in the 20th century

(Large view)

The view of the bridge on this postcard is towards the Fourvière Hill; the building atop the hill is Basilique de Fourvière.

1.5 Place des Terreaux

Berlioz and Marie Recio stayed at the Hôtel du Parc near the Place des Terreaux. 

Place des Terreaux in the 17th century

(Large view)

The original copy of this engraving is in the Archives Municipales de Lyon; the above image is courtesy of André Pelletier, Histoire de Lyon (Éditions Lyonnaises d’Art et d’Histoire).

Place des Terreaux in 1880
Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall)

(Large view)

The above engraving was drawn by A. Deroy and engraved by Huyot; it was published in Le Tour de France: Puys et la Cité de Limes, by Alexandre Dumas.


Place des Terreaux c. 1850

(Large view)

An original copy of this daguérotype is in the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon. We are most grateful to M. Thierry Nugier for sending us an electronic copy of the photo. Hôtel du Parc is on the far right corner of the photo (see the detail below).

Place des Terreaux c. 1850 (detail)
ôtel du Parc

(Large view)

Place des Terreaux after 1890

(Large view)

The Bartholdi Fountain was built in the 1880s by Frédéric Bartholdi (1834-1904), initially on commission from the city of Bordeaux. The work was completed in 1888 but Bordeaux could not afford the cost; the fountain was subsequently installed in the middle of the Place des Terreaux in 1891, and stayed there until 1992 when it was moved to its present location, to the side of the Place (see 2011 photos below). In September 1995 the fountain was classified as Historic Monument.

Place des Terreaux around the late 19th century

(Large view)

Place des Terreaux c. 1930

(Large view)

This postcard was posted on 14 February 1930.

2. Châlons-sur-Saône in times past

Châlons-sur-Saône in 1835

(Large view)

Entering Lyon coming from Châlons-sur-Saône in the 1780s

(Large view)

View of Châlons-sur-Saône coming by river from Lyon in the 1780s

(Large view)

The above two watercolours by Jean-Baptiste Lallemand are courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

3. The Grand Théâtre of Lyon (now Opéra Nouvel)

The Grand Théâtre was inaugurated in 1831 with Boiëldieu’s opera La Dame blanche. In addition to Berlioz, visiting artists included Liszt, Thalberg and Félicien David.
Between 1985 and 1993 the architect Jean Nouvel redesigned and rebuilt the opera house within its 19th century shell, preserving only the foyer and the exterior façade (see below). The Opéra Nouvel is at present the home of the Opéra National de Lyon.

The Grand Théâtre in 1831

(Large view)

The above engraving is reproduced from The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, 1980, volume 11.

The Grand Théâtre c. 1898

(Large view)

The Grand Théâtre in the early 20th century

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The Grand Théâtre in the mid 20th century

(Large view)

4. The Théâtre des Célestins

Located in the Place des Célestins, the original theatre was inaugurated in 1792 as the Théâtre des Variétés, which had been built on the site of the Célestins Convent. The Théâtre des Variétés is the building that Berlioz knew and, probably because of its location, he refers to it as the Théâtre des Célestins. The theatre was destroyed by fire in 1871. A new theatre was built on its site which was inaugurated in 1877; it was also destroyed by fire three years later in 1880. The present theatre dates back to 1881.

The Théâtre des Célestins in the early 1800s

The above drawing is courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

The Théâtre des Célestins c. 1830

The above engraving is courtesy of the site L’Echo de la Fabrique.

The Théâtre des Célestins c. 1898

(Large view)

The Théâtre des Célestins in 1900

(Large view)

II. Lyon in our time (2011)

1.1 Fourvière

View of Fourvière from the foot of the hill 

(Large view)

View of Fourvière on the way up the hill

(Large view)

Théâtre antique de Fourvière (Grand Théâtre)

(Large view)

Théâtre antique de Fourvière (The Odéon)

(Large view)

View from Fourvière

(Large view)

View from Fourvière

(Large view)

The dome of the Opéra Nouvel (formerly the Grand Théâtre) is visible in the distance. 

View from Fourvière

(Large view)

1.2 Pont Morand

(Large view)

The area where Madame Fornier’s house was located is to the right of the photo.

(Large view)

The view here is towards the area where Madame Fornier’s house was located (see also the next photo).

(Large view)

(Large view)

This is the other end of the bridge, leading to the Croix-Rousse area; Fourvière is off the photo on the left (see next photo)

(Large view)

The photo shows the back of Opéra Nouvel; behind it in the distance is Fourvière.

1.3 Place des Terreaux

(Large view)

(Large view)

This building, the Palais Saint-Pierre, houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Museum of Fine Arts).

(Large view)

(Large view)

Bartholdi Fountain

(Large view)

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The building on this side of the Place is Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall).

(Large view)

This photo shows the back of the Town Hall, which forms one side of the Place de la comédie, and faces Opéra Nouvel on the other side.

1.3 Opéra Nouvel (formerly the Grand Théâtre)

(Large view)

(Large view)

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1.4 The Théâtre des Célestins

(Large view)

1. 5 Estelle Fornier’s home in Lyon

Estelle Fornier lived at No. 56 Avenue de Noaille when Berlioz went to see her on the 23rd of September 1864. The following photos show No. 56 in what used to be the Avenue de Noaille and was later renamed Avenue du Maréchal Foch. We do not know whether the buildings on this avenue have been renumbered since 1864.

No. 56 Avenue du Maréchal Foch 
(formerly Avenue de Noaille)

(Large view)

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The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997;
Berlioz and Lyon page created on 11 December 2010, enlarged on 15 November 2011, 21 August 2014, and 1st April 2015.

© Monir Tayeb Michel Austin for all the pictures and information on this page. All rights reserved.

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