Berlioz, Hector. (1803-1869)
A Travers Chants. Etudes Musicales, Adorations, Boutades et Critiques.
Paris: Michel Lévy. 1862. First edition.
12mo. 336 pp. A fine copy, blue paper boards over gilt-stamped blue morocco with four raised bands to spine. Clouzot p. 52.
According to Harold Schonberg, Berlioz was the "foremost music critic of his time, possibly of all time" and this is the third of the composer's three collections of his own criticism. The title is a pun on "à travers champs" or "tramping across fields" and these essays cover a wide spectrum of intellectual inquiry: Beethoven's nine symphonies and his opera, Fidelio; Wagner and the partisans of the "Music of the Future"; Berlioz's idols - Gluck, Weber, and Mozart. There is an eloquent plea to stop the constant rise in concert pitch (an issue still discussed today), a serious piece on the place of music in church, and a humorous and imaginative account of musical customs in China. But Berlioz's writings also contain biting satire and ridicule - of opera singers, of the Academy, and of dilettantism.