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Early Autograph Letter Signed Reserving a Venue for the Premiere of His “Harold en Italie”

Item: 20031
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BERLIOZ, HECTOR. (1803-1869). French composer; creator of Harold in Italy, Symphonie Fantastique, and other masterpieces. ALS. (“Hector Berlioz”). 2pp. 4to. Paris, October 9, 1834. To l’intendant general de la liste civile. In French with translation.

“I am planning to give three concerts over the course of next November. The Salle des Menus Plaisirs, which you have been kind enough to make available to me several times in the past, is really the only venue in Paris that lends itself to these kinds of musical events. So I request that you will grant me permission to hold mine there. These concerts, just like the ones I gave last years, would take place on Sundays at 2 in the afternoon. With all my respect, dear General Intendant, your humble servant…”

Portrait of Berlioz seated

Hector Berlioz

The 1830s were difficult for Berlioz. Bereft of the recognition he craved, and unable to earn a steady income from composing, he worked as a critic for several journals and newspapers and accepted the few commissions that came his way. Nevertheless, he produced a number of works, including the symphony Harold en Italie which premiered on November 23, 1834, (about a month and a half after writing our letter) at the Paris Conservatoire, then housed in the Salle des Menus Plaisirs, a theater attached to the Hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs and the venue for most of Berlioz’s symphonic works. Harold en Italie, based on Byron’s narrative poem, so captivated Italian violinist and composer Niccolo Paganini (for whom it was written) that in 1838 he presented Berlioz with a gift of 20,000 francs. Several weeks before the premiere, the Paris Conservatoire was also the venue for another Berlioz program on November 9, which included his Symphonie fantastique as well as the first performances of Sara la baigneuse (version H69A) and la Belle voyageuse. A plaque outside the Salle du Conservatoire commemorates Berlioz’s performances there.

Our letter was written from 34 rue de Londres, Berlioz’s home between 1834 and 1836.

Docketed in the top margin. Folded and slightly creased; a very early letter and, as such, uncommon.

Early Autograph Letter Signed Reserving a Venue for the Premiere of His “Harold en Italie”

$1800 • item #20031

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