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Berlioz, Hector (1803–1869)

  1. George Thomas Kurian

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0149

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Kurian, G. T. 2011. Berlioz, Hector (1803–1869). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Leading French composer of the 19th century. Failing to find success at the Paris Opera, he turned to music criticism and undertook a number of concert tours in England, Germany, and Russia. Although he composed some noteworthy sacred music he is not generally considered a church musician because of his unorthodoxy. He made use of liturgical texts but they were not intended to be used in a worship service. His first substantial composition was a Mass (1824). His monumental Requiem Mass in 1837 was commissioned not by or for the church but by the government minister for the interior. It was followed 25 years later by Te Deum which was performed not in a church but at the Brussels Exposition in 1855. The Requiem was performed on a vast scale, with eight pairs of timpani and four groups of brass, and it constituted Berlioz's vision of the Last Judgment. In Te Deum, there is a children's chorus of 600 and movements of unprecedented grandeur. His third religious work was L'Enfance du Christ, a choral trilogy which met with great and unexpected success. It is an account of the childhood of Christ in three parts: “The Dream of Herod,” “The Flight into Egypt,” and “The Arrival in Sais.” It is devotional in style and modest in scale. Despite composing three major works, Berlioz is not part of the mainstream of Christian music.


  • Berlioz, Hector (1803–1869);
  • liturgical texts;
  • monumental work, requiem mass;
  • te deum, performed at brussels exposition;
  • the requiem, performed on a vast scale;
  • l'enfance du christ, a choral trilogy