Charles Hallé

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Charles Hallé on Berlioz


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    This page presents a transcription of extracts relating to Berlioz from Sir Charles Hallé, Life and Letters of Sir Charles Hallé, London, 1896, edited by C. E. and M. Hallé, a copy of which is in our own collection.

    We have preserved the original syntax and spelling of the text, but corrected obvious type-setting mistakes.

    The English translation of Berlioz’s letters to Hallé (CG nos. 1188 and 2492) and other letters on this page are reproduced from the original text.

p. 64-70

The most important friendship I formed at that time (or it may have been at the end of 1837) was that with Hector Berlioz – ‘le vaillant Hector,’ as he was often called – whose powerful dominating personality I was glad to recognise. How I made his acquaintance is now a mystery to me – it seems as if I had always known him – I also wonder often how it was he showed such interest in an artist of so little importance as I then was; he was so kind to me, and, in fact, became my friend. Perhaps it was because we could speak with the same enthusiasm of Beethoven, Gluck, Weber, even Spontini, and, perhaps, not less because he felt that I had a genuine admiration for his own works. There never lived a musician who adored his art more than did Berlioz; he was, indeed, ‘enthusiasm personified.’ To hear him speak of, or rave about, a real chef d’œuvre, such as ‘Armida’, ‘Iphigenia,’ or the C Minor Symphony, the pitch of his voice rising higher and higher as he talked, was worth any performance of the same. And what a picture he was at the head of his orchestra, with his eagle face, his bushy hair, his air of command, and glowing with enthusiasm. He was the most perfect conductor that I ever set eyes upon, one who held absolute sway over his troops, and played upon them as a pianist upon the keyboard. But discussion about his genius and his works is superfluous at the present time; even his life is so thoroughly known that I need only relate of him what has come under my personal knowledge.

He also came often to my humble lodgings, and I must say that his visits to me were more frequent than mine to him; for even at that time Madame Berlioz, the once charming and poetic Ophelia, had become somewhat repellent, and it was impossible to imagine her acting or anybody falling in love with her. To her honour it must, however, be said that she upheld Berlioz in his hardest struggles, always ready to endure the greatest privations when it was a question for him to save money enough for the organisation of a concert on a large scale, concerts which seldom left any profit. I had the pleasure of introducing him to Stephen Heller, who soon won his esteem, and remained on friendly terms with him until his death. Berlioz was no executant upon any instrument (for being able to strum a few chords on the guitar does not count), and he was painfully aware how much this was a hindrance to him, and to his knowledge of musical literature, which, indeed, was limited. I was often astonished to find that works, familiar to every pianist, were unknown to him; not merely works written for the piano, such as Beethoven’s sonatas, of which he knew but few, but also orchestral works, oratorios, &c., known to the pianist through arrangements, but of which he had not chanced to see a score. Perhaps many undoubted crudities in his works would have been eliminated had he been able to hear them before committing them to paper, for I had several proofs that the eye alone was not sufficient to give him a clear idea of the effect of his musical combinations. Thus at the time when he scored Weber’s ‘Invitation à la Valse’ for the orchestra, he made me play it to him, and when I had come to the point where, after the digression into C major, the theme is resumed in the original key, D flat, he interrupted me with the words, ‘Après tout, cela va,’ confessing that from the perusal of the piece he had thought the modulation too harsh, and almost impossible. On another occasion, much later, he arrived at my house and eagerly told me he had found a new cadence to end a movement with. ‘The last chord,’ he said, ‘is the chord of G major, and I precede it by the one in B minor.’ When I told him there were hundreds of examples of such an ending, he would not believe me, and was greatly astonished when we searched for and found them.

In some of the most interesting moments of Berlioz’s musical career in Paris I had the privilege of being with him. Thus on December 5, 1837, I went with him to the Hôtel des Invalides to witness the first performance of his ‘Requiem,’ and was, therefore, an eye-witness of what took place on that occasion. Habeneck, after Berlioz the most accomplished chef d’orchestre in Paris, conducted by rights, and Berlioz sat in the chair near him. Habeneck, who conducted not only the Grand Opera but also the ‘Concerts du Conservatoire,’ had the habit of now and then putting his conducting stick down and listening complacently to the performance of his orchestra. It was, therefore, perhaps force of habit that made him discard the bâton at the commencement of the ‘Tuba mirum,’ this time not to listen, but leisurely to take a pinch of snuff! To my amazement I suddenly saw Berlioz standing in Habeneck’s place and wielding the bâton to the end of the movement. The moment had been a most critical one, four groups of brass instruments, stationed at the four corners of the large orchestra, which with the chorus was placed under the dome in the centre of the building, having to enter successively, and, without Berlioz’s determination, disaster must have ensued, thanks to the unfortunate pinch of snuff. Habeneck, after the performance, thanked Berlioz profusely for his timely aid, and admitted that his own thoughtlessness might have caused a break-down, but Berlioz remained persuaded that there had been no thoughtlessness, and that the break-down was intended. I could not believe this, for the simple reason that when such a thing occurs it is always the conductor on whose shoulders the blame of the break-down is laid, and most deservedly so; it is, therefore, most unlikely that he should himself try to provoke one. The effect of the ‘Requiem,’ and especially of the ‘Tuba mirum,’ was so overpowering that I have never dared to produce it in England, where it has been my joy to conduct so many of Berlioz’s works; the placing of the four orchestras at the corners of the principal one is impossible in our concert rooms, and I consider it indispensable for the due effect of the movement and the carrying out of the composer’s intention.

Of his perfect command over the orchestra, Berlioz gave an extraordinary proof on the occasion of a grand concert given by him a few years later in the ‘Cirque Franconi.’ There had been a very long rehearsal in the morning, at which I was present, as I had to play Beethoven’s G major concerto, then very seldom performed. After some hours’ hard work Berlioz dismissed the orchestra; I remained with him, and hardly had the last member of the band vanished when Berlioz struck his forehead, exclaiming: ‘I have forgotten the overture!’ He stood speechless for a few minutes, then said with determination: ‘It shall go nevertheless.’ Now this overture was the one to ‘Le Carnaval Romain,’ to be performed that evening for the first time, and never rehearsed. Musicians who know the work, with its complicated rhythm and all its intricacies, will easily understand how bold the venture was, and will wonder that it could be successful. But to see Berlioz during that performance was a sight never to be forgotten. He watched over every single member of the huge band; his beat was so decisive, his indication of all the nuances so clear and so unmistakable, that the overture went smoothly, and no uninitiated person could guess at the absence of a rehearsal. This absolute command over the orchestra I had already admired during the preparations for the first production of his ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in 1839, which took a long time, but resulted in a magnificent performance, stirring the public to enthusiasm. His own public I mean; totally distinct from the general one, which did not appreciate or understand his music. Berlioz had at all times a not inconsiderable number of devoted followers, who made up in zeal and admiration for their want of numbers, and to whom he was warmly and somewhat gratefully attached. The indifference shown by the crowd, and even by many musicians, towards his works he felt deeply, although he tried to make light of it, and any real success, however temporary, was eagerly welcomed, and brightened up his life for a while. So the well-known Paganini incident of the previous year had strengthened his courage for a long time, and from a morose made him a most cheerful companion. But thereby hangs a tale which, as all the actors in it are gone to their rest, may be divulged without inconvenience. Armand Bertin, the wealthy and distinguished proprietor of the ‘Journal des Débats,’ had a high regard for Berlioz and knew of all his struggles, which he, Bertin, was anxious to lighten. He resolved therefore to make him a present of 20,000 fr., and in order to enhance the moral effect of this gift he persuaded Paganini to appear as the donor of the money. How well Bertin had judged was proved immediately; what would have been a simple gracieuseté from a rich and powerful editor towards one of his staff became a significant tribute from one genius to another, and had a colossal retentissement. The secret was well kept and never divulged to Berlioz. It was known, I believe, to but two of Berlioz’s friends besides myself, one of whom is Mottez, the celebrated painter; I learned it about seven years later when I had become an intimate friend of the house, and Madame Armand Bertin had been for years one of my best pupils.

p. 73

Mendelssohn, and certainly Berlioz, would have been amazed if they had witnessed the modern craze for conducting without the score; they never did so, even with their own works, which certainly they must have known better than anybody else. There can be no possible advantage in dispensing with the score, a glance at which shows to the conductor the whole instrumentation, and enables him to watch over every detail of the execution, and over the entries of the most secondary instruments. No conductor could write by heart twenty pages of the full score of a symphony, or other work, exactly with the instrumentation of the composer (perhaps the composer himself could not do it); he must therefore remain ignorant whilst conducting, of what the minor instruments, say the second clarinet, second bassoon, second flute, and many others, have to do – a serious disadvantage. The public who go into ecstasies over ‘conducting by heart’ do not know how very easy it is, how much easier, for instance, than playing a concerto or a sonata by heart, at which nobody wonders. Without the score the conductor has only to be acquainted with the general outline of the composition and its salient features; then, the better the band the easier the task of its chief.

p. 77

My life at this time became one of uninterrupted intellectual enjoyment, which will be easily understood by my readers when I enumerate a few of the names of distinguished men, in the most various walks of life, whom I could call personal friends: Ary Scheffer, Lamartine, Salvandy, Ledru Rollin, Alexandre Dumas père, Ingres, Meyerbeer, Halévy, Delacroix, Louis Blanc, Guizot, ‘Maître’ Marie, not to forget Berlioz, Heller, Heine, Ernst, Jules Janin, Liszt, Chopin, and a host of others equally remarkable. Paris was then in reality what Wagner wished to make Bayreuth, the centre of civilisation; and such a galaxy of celebrities as it contained has, I believe, never been assembled again. The charm of Parisian life at that period was that in certain ‘salons,’ on fixed evenings in the week, most of these ‘mighty ones’ were to be met.

p. 86-88

The Beethoven festival at Bonn, mentioned incidentally just now, to which Berlioz and I journeyed together from Paris, drew together a large number of the most notable musicians from all countries, all anxious to do homage to the memory of that incomparable genius. It was graced by the presence of the King of Prussia and his guests, Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, who witnessed from a royal box built purposely in the square the unveiling of the statue, which, to the astonishment of the multitude that surrounded it, was found when the veil fell to turn its back upon the Royalties.

Liszt was the hero of the fête, and justly so, for without his colossal exertions it would never have taken place. He was seldom to be approached by us, so great was the crowd of his admirers that besieged him constantly; but the occasional half hours that he could spare to Berlioz and myself were made memorable by the flashes of his eloquence and wit. His speech was indeed golden. At the first concert he played us, however, an unpardonable trick. For the opening of the programme he had composed a cantata of considerable length, devoid of interest, as the rehearsals had shown us, but which we had resigned ourselves to listen to patiently, and so we did. Hardly was it concluded, and we were preparing ourselves to enjoy Beethoven’s music, when the Royalties, who had been detained until then, entered their box, and Liszt, to our dismay, began the whole cantata over again, inflicting it a second time on the immense audience, who, out of respect for the crowned heads, had to endure it, though probably not without inward grumbling. One morning, during this week of festivities, I found him alone, and the conversation turning upon events and anecdotes which had made the years from 1838 to 1846 memorable to both of us, he suddenly exclaimed, ‘Ah l’heureux temps! où l’on pouvait être si bête!’ He spoke feelingly, and I think rendered himself justice, for the things he could say and do during that period when he was the best fêted artist that perhaps had ever lived bordered really on the ludicrous. Thus, after his great triumphs in Germany, especially in Berlin, where the ladies had fought for his gloves, I heard him say at one of the receptions in Paris, the name of the King of Prussia being mentioned: ‘Le roi a été très convenable!’ To be different from the rest of mankind, to know nothing of the usual modes of living, or rather to appear ignorant of them, seemed his one aim. Once, having accidentally met me on the Boulevards, he asked me to dine with him at the Café de Paris. We enjoyed a good but simple dinner, and when the waiter brought the bill, which could hardly have amounted to 30 frs., he asked me quite seriously if I thought 40 frs. for the waiter would be sufficient! ‘Je ne sais jamais ces choses,’ he said, and without my remonstrances he would have given to the waiter more than the whole dinner had cost. Calling upon him one day I found him engaged with his tailor, and busy looking at patterns for waist-coats. ‘I have at least sixty,’ said he to me, ‘but never find one to my liking when I want it.’ ‘What do you say to this pattern?’ he asked presently, and on my approving of it he came out with ‘Voulez-vous que je vous en fasse faire un?’ – a kind offer which was declined with thanks.

p. 101-3

With my arrival [sc. in London] in March 1848 begins a new epoch in my life, by far the most important and active one, which in many respects has been full of surprises to me. Very far indeed was I then from anticipating that I should one day feel thoroughly at home in England, be proud to become one of her citizens, and play a humble but not altogether unimportant part in the development of her musical taste. My first call was upon my friend Berlioz, who was in trouble through the bankruptcy of Monsieur Jullien, by whom he had been engaged to conduct the opera at Drury Lane. I did not meet him, but returning home from a long round of calls I found the following characteristic note [CG no. 1188, late March 1848]:

Mon cher Hallé, – Je suis bien fâché d’avoir le plaisir de vous voir, je vous remercie néanmoins d’être venu à la maison aussitôt après votre naufrage sur les côtes d’Angleterre. Si vous y êtes ce soir, nous nous désolerons ensemble en fumant. Je reviendrai chez vous vers les dix heures. Tout à vous,


Dear Hallé, I am very sorry to have the pleasure of seeing you, nevertheless I thank you for having come to this house so soon after your shipwreck on the coast of England. If you are at home to-night we shall lament together while smoking. I shall come to you about ten o’clock. Ever yours,


And we did ‘désoler’ ourselves together, the future looking very black indeed. The five years which had elapsed since I left London in ’43 had, however, brought some change in my position as an artist, and, instead of having to solicit engagements, the opportunity of playing in public was offered to me spontaneously. Some grand orchestral concerts were given at Covent Garden under the direction of Signor Costa, and I soon received an invitation to play Beethoven’s E flat concerto at one of them. This I may consider my first public appearance in England, and it was favourably received and criticised. An invitation to play at the Musical Union followed immediately, and was renewed several times during the season. The Musical Union, the predecessor of the Popular Concerts, was originated and directed by Mr. John Ella, and, at the time I speak of, was very flourishing, and the most important concert institution (for chamber music) in London. The Duke of Cambridge was president, and there was a committee composed of members of the highest aristocracy, who, however, did not interfere with the management of the concerts. That was entirely in the hands of Mr. Ella.

p. 137-40

Having produced ‘Iphigenia’ for the first time in England [25 January, 1860], I turned my attention to another of Gluck’s masterpieces, ‘Armida,’ the translation of which had in the mean time been completed by Chorley. The printed full score of this opera, dating from 1778, is, if possible, in a worse and more misleading state than that of ‘Iphigenia.’ I could not, therefore, confide the task of copying out the orchestra parts to an ordinary copyist. Anxious, however, to be spared such a labour myself a second time, I applied to Berlioz, whose knowledge of Gluck and all his works was complete, Gluck being one of his idols, and asked him if the parts of ‘Armida’ could be obtained in Paris, where this opera had been so often given in former times. I received the following reply, interesting in more than one sense [CG no. 2492, 4 April 1860]: –

Mon cher Hallé, – Je nous félicite du succès éclatant de votre tentative pour révéler Gluck aux anglais. Il est donc vrai que tôt ou tard la flamme finit par briller, si épaisse que soit la couche d’immondices sous laquelle on la croyait étouffée. Ce succès est prodigieux, si l’on songe combien peu l’Iphigénie est appréciable au concert, et combien l’œuvre de Gluck en général est inhérente à la scène. Tous les amis de ce qui est éternellement beau vous doivent, à vous et à Chorley, une vive reconnaissance.

Il n’y a pas d’autres parties séparées d’Armide que celles de l’Opéra, et certainement on ne vous les prêterait pas. En outre elles contiennent une foule d’arrangements faits autrefois par Gardel et autres, et des instruments ajoutés par je ne sais qui, dont vous ne voudriez certainement pas faire usage. Vous avez l’intention de produire Gluck tel qu’il est. Force vous sera donc de faire copier les parties sur la partition, qui, du reste, est l’une des moins fautives et des moins en désordre que Gluck nous ait laissées. Sans qu’on sache pourquoi, l’auteur n’y a jamais employé les trombones; il en est de même dans Iphigénie en Aulide. Dans Orphée, Alceste, et Iphigénie en Tauride, au contraire, cet instrument joue un rôle très important. Dans Iphigénie en Aulide Gluck a fait des changements pour quelques passages, et des airs de danse qui ne se trouvent que dans la partition manuscrite de l’Opéra. Vous ne pourrez pas faire votre édition anglaise bien exacte sans venir à Paris. Mais si ce n’est qu’une édition pour le piano, le mal sera moins grand. Jamais, je crois, il n’exista un compositeur plus paresseux que Gluck, ou plus insoucieux de ses œuvres, dont pourtant il paraissait très fier. Elles sont toutes dans le désordre et le désarroi les plus complets.

Je n’ai pas, que je sache, été attaqué par Wagner; il a seulement répondu à mon article des ‘Débats’ par une lettre prétendue explicative à laquelle personne n’a rien compris. Cette lettre amphigourique et boursouflée lui a fait plus de tort que de bien. Je n’ai pas répliqué un mot.

Adieu, mon cher Hallé, veuillez me rappeler au souvenir de Madame Hallé et faire mille amitiés de ma part à Chorley quand vous le verrez.

Gluck  ! ! ! !


My dear Hallé, I congratulate us on the brilliant success of your attempt to reveal Gluck to the English. So it is true that sooner or later the flame bursts forth, however thick may be the layers of rubbish under which one thought it smothered. This success is prodigious, when one remembers how little ‘Iphigénie’ can be appreciated at a concert, and how closely Gluck’s works in general are bound up with the stage. All the friends of what is eternally beautiful owe you and Chorley a great debt of gratitude.

There are no other separate parts of ‘Armida’ except those of the Paris Opera, and they certainly would not be lent to you. Moreover, they contain a host of arrangements formerly added by Gardel and others, and additional instruments inserted by I know not whom, of which you would certainly not make use. Your intention is to produce Gluck as he is. You will, therefore, be forced to have the parts copied from the score, which, however, is one of the least faulty and the least untidy which Gluck has left us. For some unknown reason the composer nowhere employs the trombones in it; it is the same in ‘Iphigénie en Aulide.’ In ‘Orphée,’ ‘Alceste,’ and ‘Iphigénie en Tauride’ on the contrary, this instrument plays a very important part. In ‘Iphigénie en Aulide’ Gluck has made some changes for certain passages, and written some dance-music which is only found in the MS. score belonging to the Opera. You cannot make your English edition very exact without coming to Paris. But if it is only a pianoforte edition the harm would be less great. I think there never existed a lazier composer than Gluck, nor one more careless of his works, of which, however, he seems to have been very proud. They are all in the most complete disorder and disarray.

I have not, to my knowledge, been attacked by Wagner; he merely replied to my article in the Débats by a pretended explanatory letter which no one could understand. It was an inflated and bombastic letter that did him more harm than good. I did not answer a single word. Farewell, my dear Hallé, pray remember me to Madame Hallé, and say a thousand kind things to Chorley when you see him. H. BERLIOZ.

The musical phrase which Berlioz quotes at the end of his letter occurs in Iphigenia’s grand air in the second act, ‘O malheureuse Iphigénie,’ and, with its melodious, wonderfully vast sweep, is one of those inspirations which even a great genius finds but seldom, and thoroughly deserves the notes of admiration added by Berlioz.

I had now to give up the hope of getting the coveted parts from anywhere, for they had never been printed, so I sat down and wrote them out myself, as I have done for ‘Iphigenia.’ Trying as the labour was it was still one of love, and I felt fully recompensed when on September 28, 1860, I conducted a performance which unfolded hitherto unknown beauties to a vast audience. The success of ‘Armida,’ if somewhat inferior to that of ‘Iphigenia,’ was still great enough to reward me for my trouble. Many years later I had the additional satisfaction of being able to lend my parts to Mme. Jenny Lind Goldschmidt for a performance at the ‘Rhenish Musical Festival,’ only made possible by the happy circumstance that I had them in my possession.

p. 167-9 [written not by Hallé himself but posthumously by his son]

In 1880 my father brought out a work at his orchestral concerts in Manchester, the production of which gave him the greatest pleasure and interest; this was Berlioz’s ‘Faust.’ The Hungarian March and the ‘Ballet des Sylphes’ were well known, as they had often been given at previous concerts; but to give the work in its entirety had been my father’s ambition for years, and he at last ventured on it in spite of the doubts expressed by many of his friends as to its proving a popular success. The concert excited much interest throughout England, and many well-known musicians repaired to Manchester to hear the first performance of a work which had been so much discussed, and about which so many contrary opinions were held.

The performance, which had been preceded by many careful rehearsals, was at all points magnificent, and reflected the greatest credit upon both band and chorus, whilst the principal vocalists, Miss Mary Davies, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. Hilton, and Mr. Henschel rendered the solos admirably. The work was received with so much enthusiasm that my father gave it a second time during the same season, a very rare proceeding on his part. Indeed, it is worthy of note that during the thirty-eight years’ existence of the Manchester concerts, this compliment has only been paid to the following great choral works: – Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ of which a double performance takes place every Christmas; Handel’s ‘Jephtha,’ owing to the remarkable success of Mr. Sims Reeves in 1868; Gluck’s ‘Iphigenia,’ given three times in the course of 1860; and the music to the ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ by Mendelssohn, given twice in the season of 1857-58.

The following year, 1881, my father took his band and chorus to London and gave a performance of ‘Faust’ at St. James’s Hall, the soloists being the same as in Manchester. Again the chef d’œuvre of Berlioz was received with acclamation, and both there and in Manchester it has been repeated over and over again with ever increasing popularity, whilst in nearly all the greater towns of England it has been performed with the utmost success.

I went to Manchester for the first performance of ‘Faust,’ and being curious to know something about it before the concert took place in the evening I attended the rehearsal. A little incident occurred which revealed to me my father’s wonderful accuracy of ear, and which I may be pardoned for repeating. In the second part of ‘Faust,’ [the fourth] when the hero of the legend meets his doom and is consigned to the infernal regions, there occurs an interlude for the orchestra expressive of the exultation felt by the denizens of hell over their latest victim. When I first heard this piece I felt inclined to think my father had given carte blanche to every member of his band to make any noise he liked, provided it was loud and of a horrible nature.

When it was over, what was my astonishment to hear my father quietly say: ‘The second clarinet played an E flat instead of an E natural in the eighth bar. I hope he will take care not to do so at the concert this evening!’

p. 257-9

[Letter of Hallé to his wife, Baden-Baden, 17 August 1860, Hôtel de Hollande]

Je suis depuis hier à Baden; le temps était magnifique hier quand je suis parti de Heidelberg, ce qui m’a décidé, et j’ai rencontré ici Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Danton, Sivori, Wolff, Cossmann, Piatti, et plusieurs autres vieilles connaissances. Avec Berlioz j’ai passé presque toute la journée d’hier: nous avons parcouru toute la partition d’‘Armide,’ et, de souvenir, toute celle d’‘Iphigénie,’ et j’ai appris bien des choses que je ne connaissais pas et qu’il sait de tradition; il m’a montré des effets que je n’aurais pu trouver seul, je suis donc bien content de l’avoir vu. […]

I am in Baden-Baden since yesterday; when I left Heidelberg yesterday the weather was superb, which decided me, and here I have met Berlioz, Richard Wagner, Danton, Sivori, Wolff, Cossmann, Piatti, and several other old acquaintances. I spent the whole of yesterday with Berlioz: we went through the whole score of Armide, and from memory the whole of that of Iphigénie, and I learnt a great deal that I did not know and which he does from the tradition; he introduced me to effects that I could not have discovered on my own, and I am therefore very glad to have seen him. […]

[Letter of Hallé to his wife, Paris, 19 August 1860, Hôtel du Louvre]

[…] A Baden j’ai encore rencontré Mme Miolan et son mari, et Wieniawski avec sa femme; j’ai de plus assisté à une répétition du grand concert, que Berlioz a dirigé et où il a répété une grande partie de ‘l’Orphée,’ ce qui m’a bien vivement intéressé; j’y ai encore appris bien des effets que je ne connaissais pas: ce pauvre Berlioz du reste m’a fait une peine énorme; jamais ne n’ai vu un homme changé comme lui, et à moins d’un miracle il sera certainement dans la tombe avant un an d’ici. Il le sait lui-même, et il en parle avec une tristesse qui navre le cœur. Il était si content de me voir et de pouvoir parler musique à cœur ouvert; il m’a dit que de longtemps il ne s’était senti aussi bien que pendant ces deux jours. […]

[…] In Baden-Baden I also met Mme Miolan and her husband, and Wieniawski with his wife; I also attended a rehearsal of the great concert, conducted by Berlioz, where he rehearsed a large part of Orphée, which greatly interested me; there again I was made aware of many effects I did not know. But poor Berlioz made me feel extremely sorry; I have never seen a man so changed as he is, and short of a miracle he will certainly be in his grave within a year from now. He knows it himself, and talks about it with a sadness that breaks your heart. He was so pleased to see me and to be able to speak about music with an open heart; he told me that it was a long time that he had felt so well as during those two days. […]

p. 292-3

[Letter of Stephen Heller to Hallé, 18 October 1866, Paris]

Mon cher Hallé, – […] Je suis resté à Paris, Berlioz aussi; le reste s’est envolé à tire d’aile, qui en Suisse, qui aux bords de la mer. Berlioz est aussi bien souffrant, bien plus que moi. Il est tout cassé, usé, et ne fait que geindre, le pauvre homme. A peine qu’on reconnaît l’ancien Hector, si fringant, si batailleur, pourfendant ses adversaires, et quelquefois les ailes de moulin. […]

My dear Hallé, – […] I have stayed in Paris, as did Berlioz; the rest have flown off, some to Switzerland, others to the seaside. Berlioz is also in very poor health, much more so than myself. He is completely broken and worn out, and does nothing but complain. It is hard to recognise the old Hector, who was so lively and combative, and would slash his enemies to pieces and sometimes also windmills. […]

See also on this site:

Berlioz in London  
Berlioz in London: friends and acquaintances (Charles Hallé)  
Wilhelm Ganz on Berlioz

The Hector Berlioz website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997; this page created on 1 March 2009.

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

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