The composer made another musical journey in Austria and Hungary in 1844-’45, where he was again received with the most enthusiastic praise and pleasure. It was in Hungary, especially, that the warmth of his audiences overran all bounds. One night, at Pesth, where he played the “Rackoczy Indule,” an orchestral setting of the martial hymn of the Magyar race, the people were worked into a positive frenzy, and they would have flung themselves before him that he might walk over their prostrate bodies. Vienna, Pesth, and Prague, led the way, and the other cities followed in the wake of an enthusiasm which has been accorded to not many artists. The French heard these stories with amazement, for they could not understand how this musical demigod could be the same as he who was little better than a witty buffoon. During this absence Berlioz wrote the greater portion of his “Damnation de Faust,” and, as he had made some money, he obeyed the strong instinct which always ruled him, the hope of winning the suffrages of his own countrymen.
An eminent French critic claims that this great work, of which we shall speak further on, contains that which Gounod’s “Faust” lacks—insight into the spiritual significance of Goethe’s drama. Berlioz exhausted all his resources in producing it at the Opera Comique in 1846, but again he was disappointed by its falling stillborn on the public interest. Berlioz was utterly ruined, and he fled from France in the dead of winter as from a pestilence.
The genius of this great man was recognized in Holland, Russia, Austria, and Germany, but among his own countrymen, for the most part, his name was a laughing-stock and a by-word. He offended the pedants and the formalists by his daring originality, he had secured the hate of rival musicians by the vigor and keenness of his criticisms. Berlioz was in the very heat of the artistic controversy between the classicists and romanticists, and was associated with Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Delacroix, Liszt, Chopin, and others, in fighting that acrimonious art-battle. While he did not stand formally with the ranks, he yet secured a still more bitter portion of hostility from their powerful opponents, for, to opposition in principle, Berlioz united a caustic and vigorous mode of expression. His name was a target for the wits. “A physician who plays on the guitar and fancies himself a composer,” was the scoff of malignant gossips. The journals poured on him a flood of abuse without stint. French malignity is the most venomous and unscrupulous in the world, and Berlioz was selected as a choice victim for its most vigorous exercise, none the less willingly that he had shown so much skill and zest in impaling the victims of his own artistic and personal dislike.