An elaborate scheme to
Kill his fiancée.
Donning a dress, he’d
Access the house, draw his gun…
Maybe use poison.
Came to his senses, went back,
Fortunately, Hector Berlioz was in Italy when he received word from his fiancée’s mother that the engagement was off, and she would be marrying the rich son of the Pleyel piano manufacturing family in France.
Furious, he decided to kill Pleyel, his fiancée, her mother, and himself. He got a dress, wig, hat, and heavy veil as a disguise to enter their house. He stole pistols from the music academy (why does a music academy have pistols?), and for good measure, bought strychnine and laudanum in case the pistols misfired (um…how would that work?…never mind). Anyway, en route to France, he decided maybe this was a bad idea after all.1
Good thing too (for many reasons). Berlioz went on to write operas, a Te Deum, a Requiem, and a host of other magnificent pieces of music.
His Requiem has special meaning for me; it was one of the small number of classical albums I had when I was growing up. The Tuba Mirum section has trumpets blaring from the four corners of the world and tympanis announcing the Final Judgment. With my stereo and its four speakers (one in each corner of my world/room), bass turned up to beyond sane levels, the tympanis shook the floor as the trumpets blared. Unfortunately, one of those frequencies also caused the aluminum Venetian blinds to vibrate uncontrollably, adding an annoying buzz to all that analog awesomeness.
Berlioz was my Metal before there was Metal.
Feel free to turn up your speakers as you listen to the Tuba Mirum (but not if you’re wearing headphones–the buzz you hear will not be the Venetian blinds, it will be your ears complaining bitterly).
- Cairns, David, Berlioz, Vol 1. University of California Press, 2003, pp 457-9, via Wikipedia.org.