According to his friend and fellow-composer Ernest Reyer, the last words Berlioz spoke on his deathbed were: ‘They are finally going to play my music’. It has taken time, but he was right. A century and a half later, Berlioz 150 is the watchword of the hour. That is as it should be. Berlioz was a devotee of the ancient world (‘I have spent my life with that race of demi-gods’), where it was believed that at the moment of death one might be granted foreknowledge of the future.
Why has it taken so long? In his native France there were plenty of reasons. As a forceful, witty but sardonic music critic he inevitably put Parisians’ backs up with his attacks on modern Italian music, which he regarded as frivolous, formula-ridden and fatally undramatic.