The Musical Madhouse

The Musical Madhouse

An English Translation of Berlioz's Les Grotesques de la musique

Hector Berlioz

Edited by Alastair Bruce

Introduction by Hugh Macdonald


Currently out of stock

University of Rochester Press



This is the first complete translation into English of Berlioz's second collection of musical articles, originally published in 1859. The work is a uniquely Berliozian combination of light-hearted journalism and serious musical comment and analysis.
Hector Berlioz's Les Grotesques de la musique is the only one of his books that has never been translated into English in its entirety. It is by far the funniest of all his works, and consists of a number of short anecdotes, witticisms, open letters, and comments on the absurdities of concert life. Alastair Bruce's fluid translation brings to life this important composer and bon vivant. He does a wonderful job of conveying all the puns, jokes, and invective of Berlioz's prose as well as the nuances of his stories. He even imitates a Tahitian accent in the translation, as Berlioz does in the original. The notes will give the reader insight into the innuendos and in-jokes that fill the pages. This translation will take its place among other translations of Berlioz's prose writings, bringing to the reader more lively examples of a still misunderstood composer caught up in the musical life of mid-nineteenth century Paris. With an introduction by Hugh Macdonald.

Alastair Bruce is a London-based management consultant and former treasurer of the Berlioz Society.
Hugh Macdonald is General Editor of New Berlioz Edition.


40 black and white illustrations
264 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
Paperback, 9781580461825, February 2005
Hardback, 9781580461320, June 2003
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS020000, LCO008020, MUS050000
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Table of Contents

Introduction by Hugh Macdonald
Translator's Note
The Musical Madhouse
Selected Bibliography


ForeWord Magazine selected this title as one of its Big Ten Picks from University Presses for 2003.

Berlioz's humor is solidly based on deeply serious groundwork, so readers will find as much to ponder here as to enjoy. The translation is faithful to Berlioz's words and his tone. All in all, a joy. CHOICE

The importance of Les Grotesques and the widespread British appreciation of Berlioz in recent decades make it surprising that there should have been no previous English translation. Alastair Bruce remedies the situation in admirable fashion: his version preserves the scathing, streetwise tone of the original. . . this translation will significantly enhance the English reader's understanding of Berlioz. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, December 2004

Berlioz's most concentrated exploration of the absurd. . . is the Berliozian translator's Everest; and Bruce's response to the challenge is simply magnificent...Inspired. . . an enviable model. . . Prefaced by a deft introduction from Hugh Macdonald, interspersed with a selection of caricatures and engravings. MUSIC AND LETTERS

This translation is highly recommended as a means of gaining insight into many aspects of the nineteenth century as well as being an introduction to a wide range of Berlioz's writings. One can understand why Bruce took on this labor of love: there is so much here that deserves to be more widely known than currently it is. . . . (A) translation such as this is to be warmly welcomed and applauded for the success with which Bruce has retained the energy and nuances of Berlioz's writing and produced first-rate critical apparatus. NINETEENTH-CENTURY MUSIC REVIEW

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