Monir Tayeb

The Hector Berlioz Website


Monir and Berlioz


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    Monir will best be known to visitors of this site as one of its two contributors (the other one being myself). But well before she developed a special interest in Berlioz she was also an academic with an active and productive career. Some years ago she published on the internet a page outlining her academic career, research interests and publications, and it has seemed appropriate to reproduce in full that page on this site to preserve a lasting record of her professional achievements and put her work for the Berlioz website in a wider context.

    Born in Tehran in Iran on 18 January 1946 she developed early a love of classical music, well before she left her native country to come and settle in Britain. Her first tastes in music went to all the great classics, particularly Mozart and Beethoven. When we first met late in 1989 I introduced her to Berlioz, for whom I myself had a special passion which went back to the 1950s, and she was an instant convert. From recordings, broadcasts and live concerts she got to know intimately the whole musical output of Berlioz; one of her favourite works was Roméo et Juliette, the first work of Berlioz I played to her. But she went further: she was so struck by reading the composer’s Mémoires in translation that she made a point of learning French, through a course at the Open University and subsequent stays in France: her intention was to be able to read Berlioz’s writings in the original (much as Berlioz learned English to be able to read Shakespeare!). In the mid 1990s, at the time when the internet was developing fast, she suggested to me the creation of a website that would be devoted exclusively to Berlioz: that was the starting point of what was to became the site An early version of the site was first launched on 18 July 1997; we continued to work on it together for the next 24 years without interruption, and the site developed considerably in size and scope over this time (the Site History gives an outline of its growth over the years).

    From the start the site was a collaborative enterprise, in which both of us read and commented on each other’s work; this often makes it difficult to identify the exact contribution of each of us to the site. But as the site grew there arose an effective division of labour between the two of us. In practice Monir became the public face of the site, and handled much of the correspondence that was sent to us. Then there were particular areas which became virtually her own domain (just as other areas of the site were my own special concern; see below). She took charge of the news section and of the Concerts section, and collected and published regularly information about forthcoming performances of the music of Berlioz. Closely related to this were the Archive section of past performances, and the section of the reviews of concerts, in English or French, sent to us by numerous contributors, which she managed for many years. She was also primarily responsible for compiling the pages on Berlioz’s bicentenary in 2003, and on the Celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death in 2019. For the celebrations of 2003 she invited and organised a series of contributions from leading Berlioz specialists, which were collected in the section entitled Berlioz Bicentenary Special.

    Another special interest of Monir was in the visual evidence of all kinds that illustrated Berlioz’s career and works, and his posthumous influence. Many sections of the site with a primarily visual content were initiated by her, notably Berlioz Photo Album, Berlioz Cartoons, Berlioz Statues, First Editions of Berlioz’s Published Scores, Berlioz and Literature, Berlioz Inspired Works of Art, Berlioz-inspired Art Postcards, and the large and diverse section entitled Berlioz Memorabilia.

    Many of the original photos that are found on numerous pages of the site were taken by myself (for example those devoted to Paris and La Côte-Saint-André; Rome and its surroundings; London; Weimar and Gotha). But with this proviso Monir was primarily responsible for selecting and presenting the illustrations that are an essential part of the numerous pages on the site which deal with cities, places and countries that have special significance in the life and career of the composer. The natural starting point was the page on Berlioz’s birthplace La Côte-Saint-André, for which we made in 1998 the first in a long series of trips abroad, with the aim of building up a visual commentary on the composer. In France these resulted in pages devoted to Paris, Grenoble, Meylan, Vienne and Nice, and the coverage was gradually extended to include all the countries and cities that Berlioz visited in Europe: Italy, Belgium, Germany and central Europe, London, Russia, and Switzerland, though we only managed to visit a limited number of these countries. In all of these sections, the illustrations were for the most part gathered and presented by Monir, though the text of individual pages was often my own.

    One by-product of Monir’s interest in illustrating Berlioz’s career was the steady acquisition over a period of years of a large collection of Berlioz memorabilia, for which she was primarily responsible. The collection included not only numerous pictures, engravings, photos, and postcards, but also a large number of contemporary concert programmes (the page on Berlioz and the Americas is one example of this), miscellaneous objects such as stamps, medals etc., and a large number of books, articles and other Berlioz-related publications. Many of these articles found their way in the section entitled Contemporary performances and articles. — As mentioned elsewhere on this site, this collection is ultimately destined to go to the Berlioz museum at La Côte-Saint-André (see the page Project with the Berlioz Museum).

    This is by no means a complete list of Monir’s contributions to the Berlioz website, and it would be tedious to enumerate them all. But for the record, and as an illustration of her enterprising versatility, I should mention that the transcription and publication of the complete collection of pioneering articles published by Julien Tiersot under the title of Berlioziana in the journal Le Ménestrel between 1904 and 1911 was entirely her own work; she did the same for Berlioz’s Mémoires d’un musicien of 1858-59, and also took an active part in the transcription of Berlioz’s feuilletons for the Journal des Débats. The articles by Tiersot numbered 127 in all, and were in French, a language she had made a point of learning, just as earlier in her career she had needed to acquire a fluent knowledge of English.

    The above section outlines Monir’s contribution to the website; visitors to the site may ask about my own particular contribution, and I thought it appropriate to summarise it here briefly. The following sections are largely or wholly due to myself:

    As I stated in the news page on 1 August 2021, it is my intention to continue working on the Berlioz website for the foreseeable future. But what started off and continued for many years as a collaborative enterprise between the two of us is now sadly my sole responsibility, but I will do my best to preserve and perpetuate Monir’s legacy.

Michel Austin

The Hector Berlioz Website was created by Monir Tayeb and Michel Austin on 18 July 1997.
This page was created on 1 October 2021 and revised on 18 July 2022.

© (unless otherwise stated) Michel Austin and Monir Tayeb. All rights reserved

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