Strike up a note-perfect, melodious tour de France

The Isère home of Hector Berlioz seems far too staid for such a controversial life

Discovering new areas of France is always a joy, and following a theme can open doors to unexplored places and people you might not otherwise discover

Music is central to French traditions and cultures, and a great way to enjoy it is by visiting the houses of great composers and musicians. You get a feel for their personalities and their work.

The house where Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) was born and grew up, in La Côte Saint-André (Isère), is open to the public all year round, and – as an added bonus – entrance is free.

Berlioz (by Kriehuber)

Berlioz was a romantic composer, meaning his music is emotional, dramatic, and is often connected to or expresses a non-musical idea; a story, a famous painting, a season in nature, for example.

Berlioz was controversial in his lifetime, and his music remains unconventional, full of time signature and key changes.

Listening to it, particularly for the first time, can be overwhelming. His most famous work Symphonie Fantastique was written in a fevered passion for the actress Harriet Smithson, whom he later married.

Wandering round the house gives a clear idea of his strong and passionate character.

He wrote immense scores to be played by up to 1,200 musicians at a time, and never once wrote a piece for a solo instrument.

His personal life was equally flamboyant, although towards the end of his life he became embittered by his lack of commercial success.

All of this is explained during the visit, and do not miss the garden, which is full of roses in summer.

There are concerts in the auditorium.

Do not miss the nearby Maison ...

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