In-house conference

  • David Curran (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Berlioz and the romantic subject: freedom, resistance, and tonality

How do we measure the extent to which the work of Berlioz, or of any composer for that matter, might be deemed political? The trajectory of Berlioz’s political beliefs is well known: his early flirtation with Saint-Simonianism, and other utopian socialists, his initial fervour and subsequent disillusionment with revolution, his composition of numerous ceremonial works, and his pragmatic support for the restoration of the monarchy. Many scholars, indeed, have suggested that Berlioz was not really interested in politics except to the extent to which it could bestow on him the freedom to compose what he wanted. In the end Berlioz seemed to feel that the arts would fare better under a sympathetic monarch than they would under any sort of collective democratic system. And yet artistic freedom and political freedom usually go hand-in-hand. Scholarly discussion of the political aspect of Berlioz’s work has tended to eschew close engagement with the music and focused, instead, on his literary output. In this paper, I argue that this state of affairs has resulted in a misrepresentation of Berlioz’s political beliefs. I offer readings of Berlioz’s ‘Air de Faust’ and ‘Nature Immense’ arias from La damnation de Faust, in order to demonstrate that Berlioz’s desire for political freedom was sublimated in his desire for artistic emancipation.
Period31 May 2016
Event typeConference
LocationUnited KingdomShow on map