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Smith Conference to Kick Off International Celebrations of Berlioz

Jacques Barzun, Father of Modern Berlioz Research, to Give Public Address

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), known to most music lovers as the composer of a lovesick "Symphonie Fantastique" and a colossal "Requiem," is widely acknowledged as the greatest French musical artist of his time.

An international colloquium at Smith College, "Berlioz: Past, Present, Future," is the first in a series of events around the world designed to honor the artist--a composer, conductor, critic, theorist and writer--on the 200th anniversary of his birth.

The conference at Smith, directed by Professor of Music Peter Bloom, will be held March 31 through April 2 in Sage Hall and at the Mendenhall Center for the Performing Arts. It will feature presentations by Berlioz scholars, an exhibit of rare documents, and a concert by the Borromeo String Quartet.

The conference's keynote address will be given by Peter Gay, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University and director of the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Gay, an authority on 18th- and 19th-century European history, will present "Berlioz's Berlioz," discussing the romantic artist's conflict between his outward rebelliousness and his strong inner sense of mission. Gay's lecture--which will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, March 31, in Sage Hall--is free and open to the public.

In addition, a highlight of the conference is a special address by the celebrated American scholar Jacques Barzun, University Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University, former literary adviser to Charles Scribner's Sons, and the father of all modern Berlioz research. Barzun will speak on "Fourteen Points About Berlioz and the Public or Why There is Still a Berlioz Problem." Barzun's lecture, which will take place at
4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 1, in Sage Hall, is free and open to the public.

Following Barzun's lecture, at 7 p.m. in Sage Hall, the Borromeo String Quartet will play two late quartets by Beethoven: the B-flat Major, Op. 130, and the C-sharp Minor, Op. 131-works especially prized by Berlioz. To hear the Quartet-whose members, all graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music, have been hailed by The Strad for their "music making of utter genius"-call the Smith College Box Office at (413) 585-ARTS or (413) 585-3164.

During the conference, a related exhibit will be on view in the college's Josten Library. "Berlioz: Episodes in the Life of the Artist" will include rare documents from the extraordinary collection of Richard Macnutt, owner of the largest private Berlioz collection in the world.

Among the scholars from abroad who will give papers at Smith are the president of the French National Library, M. Jean-Pierre Angremy, and the director of the music division of the French National Library, Mme. Catherine Massip. Also in attendance will be London's leading music critic, David Cairns, author of a prodigious new two-volume biography of Berlioz; Hugh Macdonald, general editor of the new edition of Berlioz's complete musical works; and D. Kern Holoman, author of the Berlioz thematic catalogue.

Following the Smith conference, Berlioz will be honored in 2001 in Germany, during the celebrated Bayreuth Festival; in 2002 in London, during a special four-day conference; and in 2003 in France, in both his home town of La Côte-Saint-André and in Paris-when, in addition to the international gathering of specialists that will take place in the fall, a four-year cycle of Berlioz performances by the Orchestre de Paris will come to conclusion, and a major exhibition on Berlioz's life and times will be held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Conference director Peter Bloom has been teaching at Smith College since 1970. He is the author of a number of articles on Berlioz, a member of the panel of advisors of "The New Berlioz Edition," the editor of two collective volumes dealing with various aspects of the composer's career, and the author of "The Life of Berlioz," published by Cambridge University Press in 1998. He is a member of the Comité International Hector Berlioz, the Paris-based organization under whose aegis all of the celebrations associated with the composer's bicentenary will take place.
Information about the Smith conference can be found on the web at or requested by e-mail from

March 15, 2000


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