The concentration of artistic talent in Paris in the first half of the 19th century was one of the phenomena of European cultural history: at its centre was Berlioz, the archetypal Romantic, misunderstood, unrecognised and ridiculed in his lifetime and now generally accepted as the greatest French composer of the 19th century. His dynamic, often extravagant public image, combined with a sharp critical intelligence and a mischievous sense of humour, did not always endear him to his more conventional colleagues, but there was an engaging, naive, sometimes almost timid private side to this insatiable seeker of musical truth that brought him many loyal but sometimes long-suffering friends. Berlioz's own memoirs have become a classic of musical literature, but they are inevitably self-regarding. Michael Rose's book presents the other side of the picture - the effect he produced on other people, whether friends or enemies, supporters, critics, or just plain observers.
Now that Berlioz has at last been internationally accepted as an established figure in the musical firmament, the insights assembled here will provoke fascinating second thoughts about a character still too often dismissed as flamboyant, self-advertising or lacking in depth.