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Berlioz Forgeries 1

By Richard Macnutt

© 2003 Richard Macnutt

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Setting the stage

    In the mid-1960s, as Berliozians were preparing to celebrate the centenary of the composer’s death with new editions of his collected musical works and letters and with major exhibitions in London and Paris, the autograph market was flooded by a glut of Berlioz forgeries. The earliest public reference to these came in a letter from Hugh Macdonald, David Cairns, and Alan Tyson that was published in the Musical Times in January 1969:

“A number of hitherto unknown Berlioz letters, drafts, musical sketches, album leaves, and “association copies” have recently passed into circulation. Most of the letters offer interesting information about Berlioz’s methods of composition, artistic intentions, musical opinions, and personal beliefs, and have thus aroused the curiosity of scholars working in the period. It is now clear, however, that many of these “new” documents are ingenious forgeries...”2

    The London “Times Diary” of 2 January 1969 picked this up and, under the heading “Beware the Berlioz fakes!,” warned readers: “If you found a Berlioz autograph manuscript in your Christmas stocking, [you had] better have rather a careful look at it.”

    This warning was timely even if rather too generalized, since almost all the forged items were addressed or inscribed to members of Berlioz’s own family – his father, his uncle Félix Marmion, his sisters Nanci and Adèle, Nanci’s husband Camille and their daughter Mathilde, Adèle’s daughter Joséphine, Berlioz’s first and second wives, and his son Louis. Nonetheless, this was a scandal that needed exposing. And it still does. The purpose of the present article is to recount the affair in detail for the benefit of current and future scholars who might be unaware of it and who thus might base research on forged documents.

    In 1992 David Cairns published an article describing the Reboul-Berlioz collection, in which he noted that most of the Berlioz letters in the collection had already been published or were known through photocopies, but that

“quite a number which the Correspondance générale designates ‘Coll[ection] Reboul’ are no longer there. Some may have been sold, but some were stolen by a one-time friend of the family who for obvious reasons cannot be named here but whose activities, including wholesale forging of Berlioz autographs, will have to be put on record one day.”3

    In a footnote Cairns described the best of the forgeries as being “of high quality,” adding that it is quite possible “that some Berlioz letters that are accepted unquestioningly as genuine are not.”

    Earlier, in his 1974 dissertation that was published in 1980, D. Kern Holoman had drawn attention to the forgeries, noting that

“among what seem to be the most interesting items in the growing collection at [the Bibliothèque municipale de] Grenoble are forged sketchbooks and albumleaves. Collectors in the United States and England inadvertently acquired several forged letters. Their mistake was understandable, for the forger knew Berlioz’s biography well and used both contemporaneous paper and iron-galled ink. His best forgeries are thus virtually undetectable.”4

    Holoman went on to identify specific forgeries, to discuss the forger’s style, and to recommend that “a document should be considered false when suspicious details combine with an unlikely overall appearance to jeopardize its usefulness. A dubious signature is one such suspicious detail ...” 5

    In 1994, in a general book on the forgery of manuscripts, Kenneth W. Rendell also drew attention to the Berlioz problem, describing the collection of controversial papers as “one of the most accomplished archival forgeries.” 6 This account of the scale and variety of the forger’s activities is in my view exaggerated, but it forcibly makes the point that Berlioz documents which first appeared on the market in the late 1960s, particularly those relating to his family, need exceptionally careful scrutiny. Rendell speaks (in 1994) of knowing of only one extant forged letter that had not been destroyed; but in fact many forged letters and documents survive in known locations – no fewer than one hundred fifty-five are inventoried below – and I fear that more remain to be discovered. My inventory provides whatever dates and details are currently known; it is based upon the records, experiences, and recollections of a number of friends and colleagues to whom I am very grateful. 7

The transmission of the family letters

    Berlioz had two sisters – Anne-Marguerite, always called Nanci, who married Camille Pal on 16 January 1832, and Adèle, who married Marc Suat on 2 April 1839 – and both preserved family documents, including the numerous letters they received from their brother. After their deaths in May 1850 and March 1860, respectively, Berlioz maintained correspondence with their husbands and daughters, and many of these letters, too, have survived in the family archives. His letters to his son Louis, on the other hand, seem to have been separated from the family at an early date – probably before the publication in 1879 of Correspondance inédite de Hector Berlioz, with a preface by Daniel Bernard, in which a selection of them was published.

    The materials from Adèle’s side of the family (plus some of the letters from Berlioz to his parents and to his uncle Félix Marmion, and other family documents) were eventually inherited by the Abbé Robert Chapot, a descendant of the union of Adèle’s daughter Joséphine Suat and Marc-Auguste-Antoine Chapot, and subsequently given, in 1981, to the Musée Hector Berlioz at La Côte-Saint-André, where they may now be consulted.

    The materials from Nanci’s side of the family, as well as further family letters and documents, were inherited by Nanci’s great-grandson, Georges-Mathieu Reboul-Berlioz (1889–1954). After his death the collection passed to his widow, Yvonne Reboul-Berlioz, who lived in Paris until her own death in 1990. She was an artist, a delightful woman, and a generous ally to scholars, to whom she unhesitatingly made her collection available.

The earlier forgeries

    The texts of some three thousand letters of Berlioz have survived, but, apart from the forgeries of the 1960s, which we shall consider separately, serious doubt has been cast on the authenticity of only eleven letters and one musical album-leaf (all listed in section B of the inventory below). 8 The earliest of these is the letter of 14 August 1819 (CG 5) 9 addressed to “un éditeur de musique” in which the young composer expresses his irritation at not receiving the second proofs of a work he had earlier sent to this unspecified publisher. Berlioz was not yet sixteen at the time, and one must make allowances for possible experimentation with handwriting and signature. But it is difficult to see how the positive and fluent hand that can already be seen in the spring of that year in his two earliest surviving authentic letters (CG 3 of 25 March and CG 4 of 6 April) – with the slightly forward slant that is typical of his mature writing – could have changed in August into the uncoordinated, hesitant, and more vertical hand of this one, with its uncharacteristically uneven base lines (the imaginary lines, that is, on which the lower edge of the upper-case letters lie). In my opinion the document is an imitation of Berlioz’s early hand (particularly as seen in CG 3) and a forgery – though one probably copied from an original document, for the forger was unlikely to have been able to see any other example of Berlioz’s early hand. This hypothesis is supported by the plausibility of the text. The letter has been in the Collection François Lang, at the Abbaye de Royaumont, since the late 1930s. 10

    Two further forgeries by persons unknown – one addressed to Théophile Gautier on 4 January 1845, the other to Prosper Sain-d’Arod on 11 August 1868 – are copies of authentic letters, and a third, also to Sain-d’Arod, dated 27 October [1868], may well be. The first was made by tracing from the original onto light-weight paper; by chance, the forged and the authentic copy are both at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. The second (at the Richard Macnutt Collection, Withyham), copied from the original, with the shaky handwriting of Berlioz’s last year, introduces a few apparently deliberate changes of wording. The third (Erasmushaus – Haus der Bücher, Basel) was undoubtedly written by the same person in the same shaky hand, but since no Berlioz original is known, it is impossible to say whether its text is copied (and, if so, how accurately) or fabricated. Both letters to Sain-d’Arod could be innocent copies of genuine letters and not forgeries at all. Still, the deliberate but poor imitation of Berlioz’s hand renders them suspicious.

    A group of six letters, allegedly written by Berlioz to Prince Vladimir Odoyevsky after returning to Paris from his second visit to Russia, in 1868, are of dubious authenticity, and are not included in the Correspondance générale. Odoyevsky was an amateur musician, an occasional journalist, and a keen admirer of Berlioz’s music. He met Berlioz in St. Petersburg soon after the composer’s arrival there at the end of February 1847. The last two of these six letters were published in Russian in 1937; the first four in 1968–1969. The whereabouts of both the originals and the French texts are not known, but, on the basis of their uncharacteristic subject matter and their inordinate length for this period of his life, one may conclude that the first four are probably forgeries; the last two may possibly be genuine. 11

    A letter that is certainly fraudulent was published in barely legible facsimile and in transcription in the program of Raoul Gunsbourg’s production of La Damnation de Faust staged at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt, in Paris, in May 1903. Undated and consisting of only a few lines, it has “Berlioz” asserting that he has completed an opera on Goethe’s work but, because no theatre director would be willing to stage it, has been obliged to resort to concert performance. This crude misrepresentation of Berlioz’s view of his légende dramatique, a work specifically designed for the concert hall, was no doubt perpetrated by or for the impresario, and was presented in the program as a justification for the staging. 12

    The only other known Berlioz forgery, aside from those considered below, provides an example of a type of artifact that has traditionally attracted counterfeiters – the musical album-leaf, which many collectors find appealing and which therefore commands a disproportionately high market price. This example consists of three bars from the duo-nocturne “Nuit paisible et sereine” at the end of Act I of Béatrice et Bénédict.

    There may be more forgeries, of course, particularly among those of Berlioz’s published letters whose autographs have not survived, of which there are some hundreds; but until recent years none was even suspected. Then, in the 1960s, the situation changed dramatically.

The forgeries of the 1960s

    I became acutely aware of the problem of modern Berlioz forgeries in the winter of 1967–1968, when I made one of my regular visits to the eminent Paris autograph dealer Jacques Lambert, of the Librairie de l’Abbaye, and was confronted by a group of about sixty “autograph” letters from Berlioz to members of his family. These were of differing lengths and of varying interest; their dates spanned about thirty years. There was no immediate reason to be surprised by the sudden availability of family letters, for many of these, of absolutely authenticity, had been appearing for sale, individually and in small batches, since October 1963. But three aspects of this large group provoked suspicion: 1) the handwriting itself; 2) the generally uniform quality of the paper and ink (odd in view of the time-span covered by the letters); 3) the fact that not a single letter had either an address-panel or an original envelope.

    I immediately told Lambert that the whole batch was forged – something he found hard to believe, because the vendor was precisely the same man who had been selling him authentic family letters during the previous few years. Indeed, the vendor was not only a trusted friend of Mme Reboul-Berlioz, from whose collection the authentic family letters had emanated, but also someone whom I myself had met on two occasions, and who, in a letter to me of 3 April 1964, had referred (falsely) to Mme Reboul-Berlioz as his “aunt.” It later transpired that the person in question – whose name is not unknown to musicologists – had not been selling the letters “on behalf of” Mme Reboul-Berlioz, as had been thought, but had rather been stealing them from her. When his supply of authentic letters began to run dry, it is logical to suppose that he simply began to create forgeries.

    Lambert informed the family, and the family went to the police. A trap was laid in Lambert’s shop and the criminal was caught red-handed. He was successfully prosecuted for theft and was ordered to repay to the family the value of the stolen documents. It is my understanding that he has repaid only a small fraction of that value; but he was never charged with forgery – which is why he cannot be named here.

    Although Lambert was the main outlet for the thief-cum-forger’s wares, two other Paris dealers are known to have bought items directly from him, and before it became widely known that many Berlioz family letters were forgeries, some had begun to move about on the world autograph market, principally in the United States. Members of the autograph trade attempted to recall stolen letters and forgeries that they had sold unwittingly, but it is certain that there remain in circulation unrecognized examples that have escaped the net.

The work of the forger

    The forger, though careless, was extremely clever – so clever, in fact, that not only were Berlioz specialists, librarians, and eminent booksellers initially taken in, but so too was the police expert whom I consulted, a man respected for his work in forgery cases. I myself, before finding at Lambert’s shop the hoard to which I have referred, had been fooled by two of the forger’s more imaginative efforts – a manuscript of La Captive and an annotated score of Iphigénie en Aulide. And Cecil Hopkinson, the great collector and bibliographer, who was always ready to share his knowledge with others, was unfortunate enough to base an article on a forged album-leaf (of Le Spectre de la rose) and a copy of the vocal score of Lélio, supposedly annotated by Berlioz. The article had later to be retracted. 13

    With hindsight it is of course difficult to believe that so many specialists could have been fooled. But single examples of forgeries can easily deceive unsuspecting people accustomed to seeing exactly such items on the market. Furthermore, the forger was not only a competent penman, he was (and is) also well versed in musical culture generally – and particularly, as Holoman remarked, in the details of Berlioz’s life and works. He was highly inventive, too, and had a mastery of Berlioz’s epistolary style.

    After the forgeries became known and acknowledged, it was natural that all letters addressed to family members should come under suspicion, and this led to an unfortunate incident. In October 1963, long before there was any talk of forgeries, Mrs. Sarah Fenderson, that enthusiastic collector who generously bequeathed her great collection of Berlioz letters to the Pierpont Morgan Library, bought a letter, dated 30 March [1843], which “Berlioz” had addressed to his uncle Félix Marmion. During the preparation of CG III – the volume in which this letter was due to appear – its authenticity was questioned and eventually the letter itself was deemed too dubious for inclusion. For several years thereafter Mrs. Fenderson provoked discussion about this letter, fiercely defending its authenticity on the grounds 1) that it is written on paper embossed “bath” (a paper that Berlioz did use for letters of this time); 2) that no one but Berlioz could possibly have written its high-spirited text (which fits with precision the facts of his career); and 3) that the penmanship of many individual words and phrases perfectly matches that of other contemporary letters. Eventually, but grudgingly, Mrs. Fenderson accepted that the letter was a forgery and returned it to the Paris bookseller from whom she had purchased it. She later had second thoughts and tried to buy it back – but it had already been resold. Alas, her initial defense of the letter and her second thoughts were entirely justified: the letter is authentic.

    The forger’s work was not confined to letters alone. He was and is himself a musician, and among his Berlioz creations are the “autograph” draft of the song La Captive, composed, as we know, in the mountains near Rome. The forger set it down on apparently authentic hand-ruled paper (such as Berlioz describes in chapter 39 of the Mémoires) in such a way as to demonstrate the composer’s method of work. As can be seen in Illustration 1, he chose to represent Berlioz struggling to find the right musical expression for the poem and making all sorts of deletions and revisions. However, he made a fundamental error: instead of basing his falsification on the original strophic form of the song for voice and piano, H. 60A, in E Major (as Berlioz wrote it in February 1832), he instead drafted a version for voice, piano, and cello – the forces that Berlioz calls for in his version of December 1832 (H. 60C) – which follows Berlioz’s far more elaborate orchestral version, H. 60F, in D Major, dating from 1848. The forger’s version could not possibly have required the laborious workings-out shown in the manuscript.

Illustration 1
Forged draft of La Captive


(Large view)
Macnutt Collection

    He evidently found a good market in musical album-leaves, of which some thirteen examples are known. The one showing the opening bars of his setting of Gautier’s poem Le Spectre de la rose, mentioned above, is inscribed “Pour ma femme, au jour de la naissance de notre fils Louis. Paris, le 15 août 1834.” The forger has been triply careless here: 1) the album-leaf pre-dates Gautier’s poem by almost three years; 2) Berlioz’s son Louis was born on 14, not 15 August; and 3) the eight bars of music quoted were not composed until Berlioz prepared the orchestral version of the song, in 1855–1856. A comparable error, one of many, is found in his forgery of “autograph” additions to printed pages cut from a copy of Les Grotesques de la musique, published in 1859: the forger worked from a posthumous (1871) edition of the book.

    There are several extant examples of printed scores annotated with “Berlioz’s” comments, markings, and corrections, and graced with “his” signature in order to make them more marketable. A vocal score of Lélio has already been mentioned; but the forger also annotated other composers’ scores which Berlioz presumably had in his library – notably the full scores of two operas by Gluck and of three symphonies by Beethoven.

    Almost all the known forgeries of the 1960s relate to Berlioz, but there are also five Chopin forgeries concocted by the same man. One of these is as daring as any of his Berlioz creations: the complete “autograph” manuscript of the Mazurka, Op. 63 No. 2, bearing a forged inscription from Chopin to Berlioz. In another, of equivalent impudence, the forger signs Chopin’s name at the head of a printed copy of the Mazurkas, Op. 30, and has “Berlioz” authenticate the signature in the margin!

    All but two of the forger’s known attempts at letters fall into the category of complete fabrications. The exceptions are the letter of 8 March 1837 from Berlioz to his father (CG 490), where the forger has copied the authentic text verbatim, and the receipt for four hundred francs that Berlioz addressed to Camille Pal on 21 September 1864 (CG 2896). These and the fabricated texts vary greatly in interest, and cleverly exploit an autograph market that at one level demands letters of substantial musical and personal interest and, at another, relatively unimportant one-page signed documents that are suitable for framing, usually with an engraving or a photograph of the subject.

    The modern forger’s style, like that of most such falsifiers, tends to lack fluency. His base lines – those of complete lines of text and of individual words – are undulating when viewed laterally, from the side of the page, while Berlioz’s own, on the contrary, are notably even. Most of the forger’s individual characters are well observed and correctly reproduced; but certain mistakes tend to betray him, as we see in Illustrations 2 and 3.

Illustration  2
Berlioz’s authentic letter to Camille Pal, 24 September 1854


(Large view)
Macnutt Collection

Illustration 3
Forged receipt, 20 August 1854


(Large view)
Macnutt Collection

    The most obvious of these mistakes, to cite characters that appear in almost every forged document, are these:

1) Figures: Berlioz tends to make figures the same size as his upper case letters, whereas those of the forger are smaller.

2) The figure “1”: Berlioz rarely has a stroke ascending to the top left of the figure, and when he does, it is short. The forger almost always has such a stroke, and it is usually rather prominent.

3) The upper-case “J”: Berlioz does not extend the letter below the base line; the forger usually does.

4) The lower-case “m” and “n” at the beginning of a word: Berlioz makes the first down-stroke almost the same height as the next; the forger makes the first down-stroke notably higher, with a pronounced ascending stroke to its top left.

5) The upper- and lower-case “s” at the beginning of a word: Berlioz rarely extends these below the base line; the forger usually does.

6) The circumflex accent: Berlioz makes his with two strokes that meet at the apex and sometimes intersect; the forger makes his with single stroke, slightly curved.

7) Berlioz’s signature: established by the late 1820s, Berlioz’s signature varied little thereafter. Its slant is slightly forward and its base line is normally level, with only the first stroke of the initial “H” and the tail of the “z” descending below. The forger’s attempt is characterized by a more vertical orientation and an uneven base line, below which – a vital difference – the lower right loop of his “B” usually descends.

    While again observing the individual characteristics of Berlioz’s musical hand with fair accuracy, the forger produces a general impression of weakness and quite fails to capture the fluency and conviction that are typical of Berlioz’s own work, as we may see in Illustrations 4 and 5:

Illustration 4
Forged album-leaf, with an excerpt from Benvenuto Cellini


(Large view)
Macnutt Collection

Illustration 5
Berlioz’s authentic album-leaf, with an excerpt from Harold en Italie


(Large view)
Macnutt Collection

    All his known musical forgeries also contain words, which, together with the overall impression produced by the documents, expose him almost instantly.

Conclusion and caveat

    After his unmasking in late 1968, the forger was persuaded by the Reboul-Berlioz family to verify a list of the letters and other items that he admitted to having forged. The “other items” include a “projet pour Gluck” (perhaps one of the annotated scores mentioned above), a “carnet” (which may be one of the three sketchbooks listed in the inventory below), “musique – 1839” (perhaps the musical quotation from Chopin’s Ballade, Op. 38), and “Wagner” (possibly the forged letter from Wagner to Berlioz, possibly the excerpts from Tristan). This list is in five parts: two parts are dated by the forger 4 January 1969; one part is dated 1 March 1969; and two parts are undated. The list is infuriatingly vague, usually giving in full the dates of the forged letters, but only twice giving the names of addressees. It is also far from complete: the forger acknowledges one hundred twenty-six letters and receipts and four further items, while I myself have seen originals or photocopies of one hundred sixty-one forged letters and receipts, and of thirty-three further items. Given that twenty-three documents on the forger’s list have not yet been identified with certainty, I conclude that the total number of his known forgeries of various sorts must be at least two hundred seventeen. Students, scholars, and collectors of Berlioz must remain cautious in the face of Berlioz autographs. In the New Berlioz Edition and the Correspondance générale d’Hector Berlioz there are numerous facsimiles of genuine Berlioz autographs which should be consulted whenever authenticity is in question. For collectors: caveat emptor.

Richard Macnutt


The Berlioz Forgeries: An Inventory

    All the letters and receipts written by the 1960s forger are here amalgamated into a single list in section A(i). This list combines the items on the forger’s own list, the other forgeries by M. le F. of which originals or photocopies have been seen, and a small number of items that appeared on the market in 1967–1968 which, until the originals have been examined and verified as authentic, must — on the basis of their content — be regarded as dubious.

    In section A(i), undated items are placed first, followed by dated items in order of month and day, the year being supplied when known. (Although the forger normally included the year in his list of acknowledged forgeries, a substantial proportion of these and other forged letters that have been seen give only the month and day. Furthermore, the editorial dates supplied by the forger could themselves be wrong and thereby further confuse the picture.) The year is given in one of three styles: a) without brackets, when the letter has been seen and the year is included therein; b) within square brackets, when the year is not included in the forgery but can be supplied editorially; and c) within parentheses, when the year derives merely from the forger’s list and is not corroborated from an original or photocopy.

    When the recipient is known, from the forger’s list or from other evidence, it is so stated. Brief incipits are given only when ambiguity is possible.

Abbreviations and conventions

* The original or a facsimile has been seen by the author of this article. The present location of original forgeries, if known, is given in parentheses.
« » Comments by the 1960s forger are given within guillemets.
(CV) Catherine Vercier Collection.
D The document has not been admitted by the forger, no facsimile has been seen, but it is of dubious authenticity on textual grounds alone.
F The document figures on the forger’s list of admitted forgeries.
(G) Grenoble, Bibliothèque municipale.
(MP) Martine Perrin Collection.
n.d. no date.
n.y. no year.
(GRB) Guy Reboul-Berlioz Collection.


“Père” or “papa” is Berlioz’s father, Dr. Louis Berlioz; “oncle” is assumed to be Berlioz’s maternal uncle, Félix Marmion; “oncle Auguste” is Louis Berlioz’s brother, Auguste Berlioz; “sœur” may be Berlioz’s older sister Nanci (until her death in May 1850) or his younger sister Adèle; “Camille” is Nanci’s husband, Camille Pal; “fils” is Berlioz’s son Louis, whom Berlioz often addresses as “ami”; “nièce” is Mathilde Pal (Nanci’s daughter) or Joséphine or Nancy Suat (Adèle’s daughters); “Jules” is Berlioz’s first cousin, the son of Victor Abraham Berlioz (Berlioz’s father’s brother).

A. Forgeries by the 1960s forger

(i) Berlioz – letters and receipts


n.d. [ca. 3:1830]F «à ses sœurs»*, “ Edouard vous remettra” (MP); n.d. [soon after 9 November 1834], oncle* (only pp. 2–3 seen), p. 2 beginning “été redemandé, l’adagio”; n.d. “jeudi” [early 1:1847] Nanci*, “Je ne t’ai pas donné” (MP); n.d. [ca. 10:1849]F «chère sœur» [Nanci]*, “Je commence à m’inquiéter” (MP); n.d. “ce vendredi 28” [after May 1850]F Camille*, “ Si j’écris si mal” (MP); n.d. «ce mardi» [early 1:1854]F Camille*, “Je ne trouve guère de temps” (MP); n.d.F «Wagner» – which may be one of the two Wagner items listed below, A(ii) and (iv).


1:1843F oncle*, 4 pp. incomplete (MP); 6:1844F oncle* (MP); 10:1850 Camille Pal*, receipt (GRB); 12:[1835]F Jules* (MP); 20:[1834]* Nanci (CV); 20:[1839]F oncle*, “Mon frère Prosper” (MP); 20:1854F Camille Pal*, receipt (MP); 20:1853 Camille Pal*, receipt; 20:1856 Louis*; 20:[1862] F ami [Louis]* (MP); 20:1866F nièce*; 20:1866F oncle* (MP) 14; 24:[1846]F sœur* (MP); 25:[1865]F ami [Louis]* (MP); 28:[1846]F Camille* (MP); 30:1836F oncle* (MP).


4:1844F père* (MP); 6:[1858]F oncle* (MP); 10:1867 Camille Pal*, receipt; 13:[1847]F père* (MP); 13:1850 Camille Pal*, receipt (Kenneth W. Rendell Collection, Wellesley); 13:[1861]F ami [Louis]* (MP); 15:[1850] oncle* (GRB); 15:1859F Camille* (MP); 16:1864F nièce*; 16:1864F oncle* (MP); 18:1834 sœur [Nanci]* (CV); 19:1840F sœur [Nanci]* (MP); 20:1843F oncle* (MP); 20:[1861]F oncle*, “La langue francaise”; 20:1862 ami [Louis]* (G, N.3300); 21:(1836)F; 21:1854F Camille Pal*, receipt (MP); 27:1837F sœur [Nanci]* (MP).


2:1847F père* (MP); 2:1852F oncle* (MP); 4:[1854] oncle* (GRB); 5:1855F oncle* (MP); 8:1837F papa* [copy of CG 490]; 8:1866F ami [Louis]* (MP); 10:[1849] oncle*, “Mon œuvre prend figure” (GRB); 10:[1857]F oncle*, “Oberon a obtenu”; 10:1857F sœur [Adèle]* (MP); 10:[1865] Camille*; “samedi” 15:[1845]F oncle*, “J’ai appris ce matin” (MP); 15:1861F oncle* (MP); 16:1861F Camille* (MP); 18:1845F père* (MP); 20:1854F Camille Pal*, receipt (MP); 22:1865F Camille* (MP); 25:1838F oncle* (MP); 25:1854F Camille Pal*, receipt (MP); 28:[1843]F sœur* (MP); 30:[1851] oncle*; 31:[1847]F oncle* (MP).


2:1851F oncle* (MP); 2:[1854]F sœur [Adèle]* (MP); 3:(1850)F; 5:(1864)F; 12:1854 nièce* (MP); 12:1863F nièce* (MP); 15:(1851)F; 17:1846F sœur* (MP); 17:(1854)F; 19:[1861]F Camille* (MP); 19:1863F Camille* (MP); 20:[1863] ami [Louis]* (GRB); 20:1865F oncle* (MP); 24:(1850)F; 24:1859 Adèle* (MP); 27:1855F Louis* (MP); 29:1852F sœur [Adèle]* (MP).


3:(1852)F; 6:1835F papa* (MP); 7:[1836]F oncle* (MP); 10:1838F père* (MP); 10:[1843]F oncle*, “Je ne vous ai rien dit” (MP); 10:[1846] oncle*, “Vous désirez” (GRB); 10:[1849]F sœur*, “Il est impossible” (MP); 10:[1865]D oncle or Camille, 2½ pp.; 14:1847F oncle* (MP); 18:1845 Camille* (Collection Thierry Bodin, Paris); 30:[1847]F père* (MP); 31:1853 oncle* (GRB).


1:(1849)F; 1:[1853]F oncle*, “ Vous me voyez” (MP); 2:1839F oncle Auguste* (MP); 2:1851F Camille* (MP); 3:1839 oncle*; 4:1851 fils [Louis]* (GRB); 10:1852 sœur [Adèle]*; 14:1862F fils [Louis]* (MP); 14:[1862]F nièce* (GRB); 15:[1837] oncle* (GRB); 20:1843F sœur* (MP); 24:[1847]F père* (MP); 29:1853F Camille* (MP); 30:[1867] oncle* (GRB).


2:1834 oncle*; 2:(1852)F; 10:1852F sœur [Adèle]* (MP); 14:[1851]F oncle* (MP); 18:[1837] père*; 18 or 19:[1848]F Camille* (MP); 19:[1859]F fils [Louis]* (MP); 20:[1846] oncle*, “J’apprends votre venue” (GRB); 20:1849F oncle* (MP); 26:(1851)F.


2:[1848]F oncle* (MP); 4:(1830)F; 4:1867F Camille Pal*, receipt (MP); 10:1836F oncle* (MP); 12:n.y.F; 15:[1844] oncle* (GRB); 15:(1868)F; 16:[1851]F oncle* (MP) 15; 18:1853F Camille* (MP); 20:1842F oncle* (MP); 20:[1850] Camille* (MP); 20:1854F Camille Pal*, receipt, Illustration 3 (MP); 20:[1862]F nièce* (MP); 22:[1850]F Camille Pal*, receipt; 23:1850F ami [Louis]* (MP); 25:[1850]F sœur [Adèle]* (MP); 25:(1861)F; 25:[1865] oncle* (MP); 30:1839F oncle* (MP); 30:1853 Camille* (MP); 31:[1854] sœur [Adèle]* (GRB); 39[sic]:(1853)F.


5:1848F Camille Pal*, receipt (MP); 10:1866 Camille Pal*, receipt; 11:[1847]D oncle, 1 p.; 12:1856F nièce* (MP); 20:1841F oncle Auguste* (MP); 21:1864F Camille Pal*, receipt [copied from an authentic receipt of this date (CG 2896)] (MP, 2 copies); 30:1852F oncle* (MP).


[–]:(1848)F; 10:[1841]F sœur* (MP); 10:1842 oncle*; 10:1845F père* (MP); 12:1866 Camille Pal*, receipt; 20:[1840]F oncle* (MP); 20:1864F Camille Pal*, receipt (MP); 22:1849 Nanci* (GRB); 24:[1852] fils [Louis]*; 24:[1852] oncle* (MP); 24:(1854)F; 25:[1861]F oncle* (MP); 26:(1854)F; 30:1864 Camille Pal*, receipt (MP).


3:1840F oncle* (MP); 8:[1842]F oncle* (MP); 12:1852 Camille Pal*; 15:1866 Camille*, receipt; 20:[1843]F Camille* (MP); 20:[1853] nièce*; 26:(1864)F; 28:1863 Camille* (GRB); 29:[1847]F sœur [Adèle]* (MP).


1:[1860]F Camille* (MP); 2:1848 Nanci*; 7:1837F sœur* (MP); 10:1842 oncle*; 10:1866 Camille Pal*, receipt; 10:1866 oncle*; 18:1866 Camille* (G, N.3306); 19:[1866] oncle* (G, N.3307); 20:1853F Camille Pal*, letter and receipt (MP); 23:[1845]F sœur* (MP); 23:1857F Camille* (MP); 24:(1848)F; 25:[1842]F sœur [Nanci]* (MP); 25:[1854] oncle* (GRB); 27:1836F oncle* (MP); 29:1847 oncleD, 2 pp.; 30:1867F nièce* (MP); 31:[1834] oncle* (CV); 31:[1866]F oncle* (MP).

(ii) Berlioz – musical and literary documents

(a) Forgeries of Berlioz’s own works

Absence*: album-leaf, the opening 14 bars on 9 staves, inscribed «Pour mon fils Louis, au jour de sa naissance [...] Paris, 15 août 1864. Hector Berlioz»; described and illustrated in Hans Schneider, Catalogue 136, item 54.

La Belle Isabeau*: album-leaf, 24 bars on 4 staves, beginning “Dans la montagne noire, ” inscribed «Pour Mademoiselle Marie Recio, souvenir affectueux de Hector Berlioz 1844».

La Belle voyageuse*: album-leaf, 2 pp., 15 bars on 3 staves, beginning “Elle s’en va seulette,” inscribed «Pour Mademoiselle Marie» and signed «H. Berlioz»; (MP).

Benvenuto Cellini*: album-leaf, 8 bars on 2 staves, from Teresa’s Act i cavatine, beginning “quand j’aurai votre âge,” inscribed to his niece, «Pour mademoiselle Joséphine Suat, affectueusement, son oncle. Hector Berlioz», undated; (GRB); see Illustration 4.

Benvenuto Cellini*: album-leaf, 12 bars on three 4-stave systems, from Fieramosca’s Act i aria, beginning “Je t’aime tant que pour te plaire,” inscribed «Pour Adèle Berlioz, ma sœur, mon amie. Paris, 1839. Hector Berlioz»; (MP).

La Captive*: sketchbook of the entire song, title-page and 21 pages of music, 8vo, bound in vellum; (Macnutt Collection, Withyham); see Illustration 1.

Dans l’alcôve sombre (from the sketchbook of 1832–1836, H. 62): two separate album-leaves: (a)* the opening of the song, 3½ bars, inscribed to Nanci, September 1848; (G, N.3298). (b)* The beginning of verse 3, “ Songe qui l’enchante il voit des ruissaux,” 4 bars on 1 stave, inscribed «à Nanci, ma sœur, souvenir de notre cher pays, de notre enfance [...] la Côte St André sept. 1848 H. Berlioz»; (G, N.3298).

L’Enfance du Christ*: orchestral sketch, 3 bars on 11 staves, from the duet “O mon cher fils,” signed «H. Berlioz»; NBE 11, p. 87, last 3 bars; (Collection Saggiori, Geneva).

Les Grotesques de la musique*: five anecdotes – “Le régiment des colonels”; “Une cantate”; “Un programme de musique grotesque”; “Est-ce une ironie?”; and “Un concerto de clarinette” – made up from pages cut from the 1871 edition of the book to which “autograph” annotations on plain paper have been pasted; (GRB).

L’Île inconnue*: album-leaf, 16 bars on 3 staves, beginning “Dites, la jeune belle,” inscribed «Pour Monsieur Acquarone, au bons soins de Louis Berlioz [...] avec les sentiments reconnaissants de Hector Berlioz 1857».

Lélio*: printed vocal score, Paris: Richault, plate number 11036.R., with “autograph” title-page and numerous forged annotations throughout the text; title-page illustrated in Fontes Artis Musicae, 15 (1968), 14–16.

Le Matin*: album-leaf, “Pour chanter le retour du jour,” inscribed to his niece Mathilde [Pal], «Pour Mathilde la mélodie qu’elle a si bien chantée [...] l’auditoire! H. Berlioz 1864»; (G, N.3289).

La Mort d’Ophélie*: sketchbook, title-page and 33 pp. of music, 2 staves per page, oblong 8vo; containing a draft of the song, dated 1848 at end; (G, N.3299).

Petit oiseau*: album-leaf, 12 bars on 2 staves, beginning “Pour chanter le retour du jour,” headed «Petit oiseau chanson de paysan» and inscribed to his niece Mathilde [Pal], «Pour ma petite Mathilde son oncle affectioné Hector Berlioz»; (CV).

Roméo et Juliette*: sketchbook, title-page and 8 written pages, 8vo, entitled “Roméo et Juliette (8). Matériel pour le Prologue,” with “H. Berlioz 1839” written on the facing flyleaf; (CV).

Le Spectre de la rose*: album-leaf, 8 bars on 4 staves, inscribed «Pour ma femme, au jour de la naissance de notre fils Louis. Paris, le 15 août 1834 [...] Hector Berlioz»; illustrated in Fontes Artis Musicae, 15 (1968), 14–16.

Symphonie fantastiqueF*: album-leaf, 15 bars on 2 staves, inscribed «Pour ma fiancée, Mademoiselle Henriette Smithson. Hector Berlioz mars 1833.»; (MP).

Les Troyens à Carthage*: a printed copy of morceau séparé no. 7, “Tout conspire,” plate number A. C. 988 (7), paginated 177–194, has been seen with a forged inscription on the title-page: «Votre tout dévoué Hector Berlioz».

Sketchbook*: containing a few miscellaneous musical phrases and rhythmic annotations; 13 x 9.5 cm, 10 leaves (of which 5 are blank), blue boards; the final page is inscribed «Estelle chez Monsieur Fornier notaire St. Symphorien d’Ozon»; (G, N.3276).

[Unidentified]F: «carnet». This may be one of the three sketchbooks mentioned above.

[Unidentified]F: «musique – 1839». This may be the Chopin Ballade, Op. 38, mentioned under (b) below.

[Unidentified]F: «projet pour Gluck». This may be one of the full scores of an opera by Gluck mentioned under (b) below.

(b) Forgeries of Berlioz’s annotations in works by other composers

Beethoven*: Symphony No. 5, printed full score, Paris: A. Farrenc [1831]; forged annotations on several pages.

Beethoven*: Symphony No. 6, printed full score, Mainz: B. Schott’s Söhnen [1867–1868]; forged signature on verso of title-page and forged annotations on several pages; (MP).

Beethoven*: Symphony No. 7, printed full score, Wien: S. A. Steiner [1816]; forged signature on dedication leaf and numerous forged annotations (e.g. p. 124).

Gluck*: Alceste, printed full score, Paris: Des Lauriers (Auguste Le Duc’s label pasted over imprint), plate number 2; forged signature on title-page and numerous forged annotations in the text; (G, 99322 Réserve). It is to be noted that the full scores of Gluck’s Armide (G, 99290 Réserve) and Iphigénie en Tauride (National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh) contain authentic annotations by Berlioz.

Gluck*: Iphigénie en Aulide, printed full score, Paris: Des Lauriers (Auguste Le Duc’s label pasted over imprint), plate number 3; forged signature on title-page and numerous forged annotations in the text; (Macnutt Collection, Withyham).

Wagner*: forged excerpts from Tristan und Isolde, entirely manuscript, 2 pp., oblong 4to. «Agréable mélodie!» at the foot of one page; described and illustrated in Hans Schneider, Catalogue 200, item 23.

(iii) Forgeries of musical works and annotations by Chopin

Ballade, Op. 23*: printed score, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel; forged inscription on title-page «à son cher Ami Hector Berlioz F. Chopin».

Mazurka, Op. 30 No. 1*: printed score, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel; forged signature of Chopin at top of first page of music, with forged authentication by Berlioz in the margin; illustrated in Ray Rawlins, The Guinness Book of Autographs (Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd, 1977), p. 46; see also ibid., p. 17.

Scherzo, Op. 31*: forged album-leaf of the opening 22 bars, on 3 systems, dated Paris 1836; inscribed by “Berlioz” «Pour Louis, ce souvenir si cher à sa mère février 1865 H. Berlioz»; (CV).

Ballade, Op. 38*: forged album-leaf of the opening 6 bars, on 1 system, inscribed «Paris 1839 Hommage à Mme Berlioz F. Chopin». Kobylańska i, no. 606, illustrated ii, p. 209.

Mazurka Op. 63 No. 2*: forged manuscript of the complete work, 2 pp., oblong 4to; page 1 (the only page seen) written on five systems, inscribed at the head «pour mon ami Hector Berlioz»; signed on p. 2 and dated Paris 1846. Kobylańska i, no. 844; described and illustrated in Hans Schneider, Catalogue 136, item 113.

(iv) Forgery of Wagner

Wagner*: undated letter to Berlioz, 4 pp., 8vo, beginning “Bien que je suis plongé dans la composition d’une immense œuvre”; (CV).

B. Forgeries of Berlioz by those other than the principal forger (all mentioned in the main text)

Undated letter to an unidentified correspondent*: relating to staging La Damnation de Faust; the episode is recounted in Tiersot, Le Musicien errant (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1919), p. 164.

Letter of 14 August 1819 to an unidentified publisher (CG 5)*; (François Lang Collection, Royaumont).

Letter of 4 January 1845 to Théophile Gautier (CG 934)*; (the autograph and forgery are both at The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York).

Six letters, apparently all to Prince Odoyevsky, 1868: [21 or 22 February], [April or May], 28 June, 19 September, 23 October, and 30 November. The last two were published in Sovyetskoe Iskusstvo (Moscow, 1937) and the first four in Sovyetskaja Muzyka (Moscow, 1968–1969); all were published in English translation by John Ahouse in the Berlioz Society Bulletin, Nos. 88–89 (London, 1975). The originals have not been seen in recent times; they are reputed to have been at one time in the hands of A. M. Vdovichenko, a horn player in St. Petersburg, who is said to have allowed copies to be made by the staff of the historical museum there.

Letter of 11 August [1868] to Prosper Sain-d’Arod*: (the original, CG 3371, is at the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Lyon, Album Sain-d’Arod, the forgery at the Macnutt Collection, Withyham).

Letter of 27 October [1868] to Prosper Sain-d’Arod* (Erasmushaus – Haus der Bücher, Basel).

Béatrice et Bénédict*: album-leaf, 3 bars on 1 stave, with the text “Nuit paisible et sereine,” inscribed “Pour l’album de Mlle Lang, Bade 12 août 1862 Hector Berlioz”; an inept forgery; illustrated in J. A. Stargardt, Catalogue 588, item 544.


1. The first version of this article was published as “The Berlioz Forgeries” in Bunte Blätter für Klaus Mecklenburg zum 23. Februar 2000, gesammelt von Rudolf Elvers und Alain Moirandat (Basel, 2000), pp. 152–176. I am grateful to M. Moirandat for giving permission for its publication here in revised form. The substantive revisions primarily concern the inventory, published in the Appendix, which has benefited from my having had recent access to two further Berlioz collections and to the original manuscript of the principal forger’s lists of admitted forgeries: these have together revealed about fifty forgeries more than those listed in the original article, and they have provided the names of the addressees of approximately one hundred further letters as well as clarification of the dating of these and many other documents.

   I ask all readers to help to extend and amplify this survey by reporting to me or to the editors of this website if and when they encounter Berlioz documents that give rise to suspicion.

2. Letter from Hugh Macdonald, David Cairns, and Alan Tyson, The Musical Times (January 1969), p. 32. Readers of this article need no introduction to Macdonald and Cairns. The late Alan Tyson was a distinguished Mozart and Beethoven scholar.

3. David Cairns, “The Reboul-Berlioz Collection,” Berlioz Studies, ed. Peter Bloom (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 1–16, here p. 16.

4. D. Kern Holoman, The Creative Process in the Autograph Musical Documents of Hector Berlioz, c. 1818–1840 (Ann Arbor, 1980), p. 6.

5. Ibid., p. 90. See also pp. 55, 83, 87–90.

6. Kenneth W. Rendell, Forging History: the Detection of Fake Letters & Documents (Norman, Okla., 1994), pp. 63–64.

7. Here I should like to mention with particular gratitude Thierry Bodin, David Cairns, Pierre Citron, D. Kern Holoman, Hugh Macdonald, and the late François Lesure. I have also been greatly assisted in various ways by Marie-Françoise Bois-Delatte, Peter Bloom, Lucien Chamard-Bois, Joël-Marie Fauquet, Yves Jocteur-Montrozier, Wolfgang Mecklenberg, Oliver Neighbour, Jocelyne Paris, Martine and Jacques Perrin, George Platzman, Guy Reboul-Berlioz, Albi Rosenthal, Catherine Vercier, John Wilson, and (notably in connection with handwriting) by Renato and Rosine Saggiori. To all I extend my warm thanks.

8. Doubt was at one time cast on the authenticity of two further manuscripts, both in the Rudolf Nydahl Collection, Stockholm – an album-leaf of the opening twenty-one bars of Villanelle and a three-page list of cuts and changes in Benvenuto Cellini. Both are now established as being authentic and will be recorded in NBE vols. 15 and 1d respectively. The manuscripts are described by Ralph Locke in his review of CG II in Nineteenth-Century Music, I (1977), pp. 71–84.

9. The numbers following CG are the numbers of the letters.

10. See Denis Herlin, Collection musicale François Lang (Paris, 1993), p. 227, where “trois lettres aut.” are mentioned but not described.

11. See CG VII, p. 715n.

12. The episode regarding this undated letter is partially recounted in Julien Tiersot, Le Musicien errant (Paris, 1919), p. 164. [The first printing of the 1903 program, which was on sale at the première on 7 May, carried this text, supposedly by Berlioz: “Je viens d’écrire un opera sur l’œuvre de l’immortel Goethe, je ne sais si je me suis approché du géant, mais je sais qu’aucun directeur de theatre ne voudra le monter et que je serai hélas forcé de faire exécuter des parties en concert afin de pouvoir les entendre.” This was followed by an editorial note: “Nous publierons dans un prochain programme un fac-simile de cette lettre.” In subsequent printings of the program, the facsimile itself appears. The barely legible writing, to say nothing of the verbal expression, is clearly not Berlioz’s. Copies of the program may be found in the archives at the Opéra, in the Dossier d’œuvre: La Damnation de Faust.

    In his articles for the Journal des Débats of 24 May and 7 June 1903, Adolphe Jullien cast doubt on the authenticity of this fragment, which Gunsbourg claimed was from a letter that Berlioz wrote to Louis, his son. But in the autumn of 1846, when “Berlioz” might have written such a letter, Louis Berlioz was only thirteen years old.

13. See Cecil Parkinson, “ Two important Berlioz discoveries,” Fontes Artis Musicae, 15 (1968), 14–16; and the retraction in the same journal, 16 (1969), 28–29, where Hopkinson exposes the two items as forgeries and states that they were admitted as such by the forger himself.

14. Two forgeries exist for this date, whereas only one appears on the list acknowledged by the forger. The same applies to the dates of 16 February 1864, 10 March 1857, and 14 June 1862.

15. This is misdated 1852 in the forger’s list.


This revised version of the present article first appeared as Chapter 11 in Peter Bloom (ed.), 2003, Berlioz: Past, Present, Future. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

We would like to express our deep gratitude to Mr Richard Macnutt, Professor Peter Bloom, Mr Ralph Locke, the Music Advisor of University of Rochester Press and Mr Mark Klemens, the director of the US office of Boydell and Brewer (parent company of University of Rochester Press) for granting us permission to reproduce this article on this page. You will find the table of contents of the book on our site, courtesy of Professor Bloom.

All rights of reproduction of this article reserved.

See also on this site the rubric Letters of the composer’s family at the Hector Berlioz Museum

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