Thursday, December 11, 2003

The Unwanted Genius

"Seldom has a prophet enjoyed less honour in his own land. No street in Paris bears the name of Hector Berlioz. France cannot forgive his refusal to recognise the innate superiority of its culture. Berlioz turned abroad for his inspiration - to Shakespeare for Romeo et Juliette, Byron for Harold en Italie, Goethe for Faust, Beethoven for orchestral bombast."

Norman Lebrecht on Berlioz at 200.

I've never liked Lebrecht as much as I do in this article. Longtime readers will know I'm generally reluctant to engage in France-bashing, but the continued refusal to embrace Berlioz in the French bosom, which would be symbolized by moving his remains into the Pantheon along with Frenchmen like Alexandre Dumas, is disheartening. It took France to produce a Berlioz, but it took Britain and, to a lesser extent, America to recognize his greatness.

See also NPR's coverage of the controversy over whether Berlioz belongs in France's Pantheon.

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