For many listeners, Hector Berlioz epitomizes the image of the Romantic composer. His works are often monumental in their ambitions and scale as well as their emotional outpourings. Berlioz was a man of extreme passion and powerful vision with an extraordinary ability to convey this through his chosen medium of music. We often tend to imagine that Berlioz, like many other composers of the past, as simply becoming successful through their abilities and strength of personality.

This could not be further from the truth. Berlioz was not earmarked for musical fame. Far from it, Berlioz had been steered carefully into a career as a doctor by his determined Father who enrolled the young composer into the School of Medicine in Paris.

Whilst the intentions of his Father were sensible and honorable, Berlioz had no interest in pursuing a career in medicine, instead, he had his eyes set on becoming a composer, and living in Paris was a fine place to start.

Berlioz up until this point was largely a self-taught composer. Medicine was abandoned by Berlioz who devoted his time to studying composition and making regular visits to the Paris Opera where he found an affinity with the works of Gluck. Berlioz had made four attempts in total to win the prize, so it is surprising to learn that he felt the cantata not to be one of his finest works and did his best to destroy the score.

Not only was this piece ambitious in length but it was also revolutionary in approach. The forces Berlioz employs are impressively grand but it is how he treats the orchestra that makes Berlioz stand out from composers of his time. Often Berlioz orchestrated using unusual combinations of instruments that create the colors and sonorities he needed to carry his vivid imagery.

What this device does is thread its way through the entire composition, acting as a unifying idea, but as is appears in each movement, it transforms to match the narrative, mood or moment.

It is a deeply personal work that singles Berlioz out amongst his contemporaries. That is to say, Berlioz based the composition on a structure originating from a narrative. In this case the story of a doomed and love-struck artist. This moves the symphonic model of the late Classical and early Romantic composers into a completely different league. By using a programmatic approach to the symphonic work, Berlioz had opened the doors to a new understanding of what a symphony could be. You might imagine that after composing such a monumental and uncompromisingly forward-looking work that the future for Berlioz was guaranteed.

As it turns out, Berlioz did not find fortune and continued fame. The renowned virtuoso violinist Paganini, having been sufficiently impressed by the Symphonie Fantastique, asked Berlioz to write him a challenging piece for his newly acquired Stradivarius viola.

Unfortunately, Berlioz felt unable to match the phenomenal technique that Paganini possessed in a piece of music, instead he composed Harold In Italy which merely featured the viola. Paganini was not impressed and refused to perform the piece. In the light of an impending financial crisis, Berlioz took to journalism with a focus on music criticism.

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Berlioz wrote kindly about Beethoven and had a passion for the operas of Carl Maria von Weber and Gluck. Failure and disappointment dogged Berlioz throughout the decade.

His enthusiastic adventure into opera, with the clear intention of reviving French Opera in the way he felt it should be represented, was not successful. With extended tours and concert programs, Berlioz was still struggling to balance the books. For many, this is the jewel in the compositional crown of Berlioz. In this enormous work, we see the familiar traits of beautifully illustrative composition that refuses to be confined by any musical conventions.

Here phrases are uneven, harmonies are unexpected, sometimes awkward and his orchestration bold and obdurate. CMUSE is a participant of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program — it is designed to provide an aid for the websites in earning an advertisement fee — by means of advertising and linking to Amazon.

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CMUSE is your music news and entertainment website. We provide you with the latest breaking news and videos straight from the music industry.It is an important piece of the early Romantic period, and is popular with concert audiences worldwide. The first performance was at the Paris Conservatoire in December The work was repeatedly revived after and subsequently became a favourite in Paris. The score calls for a total of over 90 instrumentalists, the most of any symphony written to that time.

He prefaces his notes with the following instructions:. As the work cannot rely on the assistance of speech, the plan of the instrumental drama needs to be set out in advance.

The following programme must therefore be considered as the spoken text of an opera, which serves to introduce musical movements and to motivate their character and expression. There are five movements, instead of the four movements that were conventional for symphonies at the time:. This explains the constant recurrence in all the movements of the symphony of the melody which launches the first allegro.

The artist finds himself in the most diverse situations in life, in the tumult of a festive party, in the peaceful contemplation of the beautiful sights of nature, yet everywhere, whether in town or in the countryside, the beloved image keeps haunting him and throws his spirit into confusion.

Berlioz Music Scores

Berlioz wrote extensively in his memoirs of his trials and tribulations in having this symphony performed, due to a lack of capable harpists and harps, especially in Germany. Another feature of this movement is that Berlioz added a part for solo cornet to his autograph score, although it was not included in the score published in his lifetime.

The work has most often been played and recorded without the solo cornet part. He broods on his loneliness, and hopes that soon he will no longer be on his own … But what if she betrayed him! Distant sound of thunder … solitude … silence ….

After the cor anglais—oboe conversation, the principal theme of the movement appears on solo flute and violins.

Berlioz salvaged this theme from his abandoned Messe solennelle.

symphonie fantastique meaning music

The sound of distant thunder at the end of the movement is a striking passage for four timpani. Convinced that his love is unappreciated, the artist poisons himself with opium. The dose of narcotic, while too weak to cause his death, plunges him into a heavy sleep accompanied by the strangest of visions. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he is condemned, led to the scaffold and is witnessing his own execution.

As he cries for forgiveness the effects of the narcotic set in. He wants to hide but he cannot so he watches as an onlooker as he dies. The procession advances to the sound of a march that is sometimes sombre and wild, and sometimes brilliant and solemn, in which a dull sound of heavy footsteps follows without transition the loudest outbursts.Berlioz's spectacular Symphonie fantastique is truly fantastic, says Jane Jones.

This was the first of four symphonies that Berlioz composed and with it he firmly made a break from the norms established by Beethoven for the symphonic form. Berlioz moved the symphony into something altogether more like story-telling.

That's not to say that Beethoven didn't tell stories through his music — for example, he did it in the Pastoral symphony — but in Berlioz's epic work you can practically visualize all the details of what's going on from the way the music evokes events and the feelings of the main character.

Berlioz, like a lot of composers, loved the ladies and his Symphonie fantastique was famously inspired by his stormy relationship with the Irish actress Harriet Smithson.

He was completely obsessed with her — so much so, in fact, that she initially thought him to be insane. The couple eventually married — but they were far from blissfully happy. In Part Three, he finds himself one evening in the country and hopes that his loneliness will soon be over. Part Four shows the artist - convinced that his love is unappreciated — poisoning himself.

The dose of opium plunges him into a sleep accompanied by the most horrible visions. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he is condemned and led to the scaffold, and that he is witnessing his own execution.

Serpent \u0026 Ophicleide - Symphonie Fantastique V. (extract Dies Irae)

In the fifth and final part, he sees himself at a witches' sabbath, where a terrifying troop of ghosts, sorcerers, monsters of every kind, gather for his funeral. In the midst of it all, his beloved appears but in a grotesque form.

symphonie fantastique meaning music

Even his friends were astonished that he would put into music something so explicitly personal. See more Berlioz Album Reviews. Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique: The symphony that caused an uproar. Berlioz Music See more Berlioz Music. Berlioz Guides See more Berlioz Guides.C minor --C major ; quadruple meter.

We might take Berlioz's own double title literally, as a sign of his musical form. You will learn in lecture that this gentle, opening melody has a sentimental history associated with Berlioz's first love.

symphonie fantastique meaning music

The passage on the bottom half of p. Are you surprised by the constant fluctuations of tempo? Think back to the program and what Berlioz was trying to convey. Attend to differences in orchestration, dynamicstempo, and figuration. Un bal. A major ; triple meter. This movement begins with a special effect. Gradually, out of a kind of symphonic mist, a waltz comes into being; we seem to descend on the scene just as one falls into a dream.

Perhaps this effect, in less cinematic terms, might be compared to the nebulous start of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Consider, too, how Berlioz gives his introduction visceral excitement by means of both dynamics a gradual crescendo and pitch a rising sequence by semitones. This sequence is simply a rising musical figure repeated at successively higher levels.

Because the successive semitones are equidistant, they foster a sense of instability: we don't know where the ascent will end in the event, we end on E, the dominant degree in the key of this movement. The rustling effect in the strings is called tremolo and is created by bowing or fingering rapidly.

The overall form of this piece is ternarywith an introduction and a coda. This form corresponds to that of an ordinary scherzoor any number of dance-like movements found in nineteenth-century symphonic works.

Berlioz later whips the waltz into a frenzy, and just when we think we have reached the end, a solo clarinet unexpectedly offers us another glimpse of the beloved at fig. How does Berlioz treat the orchestral texture here? But the dance, indifferent to this dreamy parenthesis, races off to a flourish whose uninhibited verve seems to merge the whirling dancers with the radiance of the chandeliers.

How does Berlioz achieve this final burst of orchestral light? F major ; compound duple meter. Berlioz pairs an English horn with an off-stage oboe for a duet between two shepherds.

Note that the first call and echo are in major modethe second in minor. Also note that this call reappears at the end of the movement, but there the first shepherd's call is answered only--ominously--by distant thunder. Inside this frame, Berlioz fashions a set of variations on another idea.

It first appears in the flute and violins at fig. The character of this melody is at first aloof but then expands into the high register with more longing.

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Four measures before the end of p. This is followed by a kind of development or extension, which modulates to the dominant C major. Introduced by a new figure in the violin, the theme now appears in the bass bottom system, p. Loud climax p. Near silence. A short transition, led by flutes and oboes, to.See also Texts and Documents ; Berlioz and his music: self-borrowings. The Symphonie Fantastique was initially composed in and first performed in December of the same year under the direction of Habeneck.

Berlioz however revised the work extensively during his trip to Italy in and in subsequent years and did not publish it until The work as we now know it is thus substantially different from the original ofwhich can no longer be reconstructed in full detail.

The programme on which the symphony was initially based went through a number of changes between and It does not need to be repeated at length here the full text of the two principal versions, those of andis given in Texts and Documents.

The opening melody of the slow introduction itself taken from an early song composed by Berlioz, cf. The allegro is in sonata form, but hardly has a second subject. After a series of long and stormy developments the end of the movement alludes retrospectively to the introduction.

The second movementan elegant waltz rather like a rondo in form, makes a complete contrast with the first.

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The autograph score of the symphony contains a part for solo cornet added by Berlioz at a later date, but not reproduced by him in the full score of the work published in his lifetime. Performances and recordings of the symphony sometimes include this part for cornet.

The movement is presented here in two versions, the first without and the second with the cornet part. The long third movement is the musical heart of the symphony, as well as the pivotal point in the drama: from the world of imagined reality in the first three movements the music moves to the world of imagined nightmare in the last two.

The origins of the movement are complex, though Berlioz fuses the different elements together to form a seamless whole. The main subject bar 20 and followingbriefly hinted at in the first movement barsis now known to have been used previously in the Gratias of his early Messe Solennelle of rediscovered inthough as well as a change of key from E major to F major, the treatment of the theme in the symphony is much more elaborate and varied; the movement is in effect a set of variations on the main theme.

Beyond this the movement is also an obvious homage to Beethoven whose discovery in put Berlioz firmly on the path of symphonic music. The movement recalls the Pastoral Symphonywritten in the same luminous key of F major, and there are intentional echoes, notably the discreet allusions to the bird song of the end of the second movement of the Pastoral Symphony in bar 67 and following. Two technical points on this movement: 1 In several places in this movement the viola section is divided in two.

In this version, in order to preserve the evenness of tonal balance, the viola parts have been notated throughout as divided, even when they play in unison except for the final bars A transcription of bars as notated in the original score is available on this site; in this notation the crescendi and decrescendi of the timpani do not reproduce as they are meant to.

The fifth movement is the most obviously provocative of the whole symphony and goes well beyond anything that had been attempted in this kind of music before. More than most other orchestral pieces in Berlioz this movement exposes all too clearly the limits of the Midi system, which can only give a very imperfect idea of its extraordinary range of sonorities.

In particular, there is no adequate equivalent for the deep bells that Berlioz had in mind bars and instead a piano sound has been used for this passage — a practice followed by Berlioz himself in his concert tours when suitable bells were not available.

Nor is there a proper col legno sound for the violins and violas in bars a xylophone has been substituted here as an admittedly unsatisfactory replacement.

symphonie fantastique meaning music

To improve the realism of playback a few passages have been notated in full and not in abbreviated form, notably the string sextuplets in bars 4 and 15, and the rolls for timpani and bass drum in barsand Back to Berlioz Music Scores.This jaw-dropping work was made by a year-old composer who had already become a famous, indeed notorious, figure in Parisian musical life.

But Hector Berlioz also happened to be one of the most brilliant writers on music ; and in his letters he reveals the genesis of this diabolically and passionately inspired work. A performance planned and rehearsed in May was cancelled, so its premiere had to wait until December.

The composer, writing to a friend about his hopes for Harriet — and for the new musical discoveries that are inseparable from his feelings for her:. There are new things, many new things to be done, I feel it with an immense energy, and I shall do it, have no doubt, if I live. Oh, must my entire destiny be engulfed by this overpowering passion? I would work non-stop … my powers would be tripled, a whole new world of music would spring fully armed from my brain or rather from my heart, to conquer that which is most precious for an artist, the approval of those capable of appreciating him.

When I have released it, I mean to stagger the musical world. In addition, the habit I have got into of constantly observing myself means that no sensation escapes me, and reflection doubles it — I see myself in a mirror.

Often I experience the most extraordinary impressions, of which nothing can give an idea; nervous exaltation is no doubt the cause, but the effect is like that of opium [which Berlioz, in all probability, knew directly! I have found only one way of completely satisfying this immense appetite for emotionand this is music.

A fortnight later, to the pianist and composer Ferdinand Hiller :. I shudder as I write it — how I love you! And yet, six weeks after that letter, he has exposed and expunged his passion in writing the first version of the symphony: those weeks must have been an extraordinary torrent and torment of activity for Berlioz.

He tells another close friend, Humbert Ferrand, what the symphony is about:. After countless agitations, he imagines that there is some hope, he believes himself loved. One day, in the country, he hears in the distance two shepherds playing a ranz des vaches to one another; their rustic dialogue plunges him into a delightful daydream. He goes to a ball [now the second movement]. In a fit of despair he poisons himself with opium [ the fourth movement, the March to the Scaffold ]; but instead of killing him, the narcotic induces a horrific vision, in which he believes he has murdered the loved one, has been condemned to death, and witnesses his own execution.

March to the scaffold; immense procession of headsmen, soldiers and populace. At the end the melody reappears once again, like a last reminder of love, interrupted by the death stroke. She is nothing but a courtesan, fit to figure in the orgy. The ceremony begins; the bells toll, the whole hellish cohort prostrates itself; a chorus chants the plainsong sequence of the dead [the Dies irae plainchant], two other choruses repeat it in a burlesque parody.The Symphonie fantastique is a symphony written by the French composer Hector Berlioz.

It is one of the most famous Romantic works for orchestra. Fantasy Symphony is a better translation than Fantastic Symphony because fantastique is not like the modern meaning of the English word fantastic. The symphony lasts about 45 minutes and is divided into 5 movements. Berlioz himself wrote down the story that the music describes, just as Beethoven had done with his Sixth Symphony. In the music the young artist is represented by a tune. This tune is often heard during the symphony.

The first performance took place at the Paris Conservatoire in December Berlioz made several changes to the music between and The symphony is played by an orchestra consisting of 2 flutes 2nd doubling piccolo2 oboes 2nd doubling cor anglais2 clarinets 1st doubling E-flat clarinet4 bassoons4 French horns2 trumpets2 cornets3 trombones2 ophicleides originally one ophicleide and one serpent2 pairs of timpanisnare drumcymbalsbass drumbells in C and G, 2 harpsand strings.

The symphony is an example of programme music because it describes something apart from the music. In this case it describes a story. This is what the composer wrote:.

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First movement: A young artist was deeply in love with a girl who did not love him. He felt so desperately sad that he tried to poison himself with opium. He did not take enough to kill him. It just made him fall into a deep sleep. In this sleep he imagined all sorts of things. His beloved came to him in a dream. He imagines her love and his tender feelings for her. Second movement: He meets her at a ball. Everyone is dancing. He finds his beloved among the crowd.

Third movement: In the country he hears two shepherds who call to one another on their pipes. The trees sway gently in the wind. The young artist starts to feel happier.

Then he sees his beloved again. He starts to worry that she may not want him any more. The shepherd music starts again, but it is only one of the shepherds playing. The sun sets. Far away a thunderstorm is heard. The fourth movement: He dreams that he has killed his beloved in a fit of anger. He is now being taken to the scaffold where he will have his head chopped off.

A march is played as he is taken away. For a moment he thinks of his beloved again, then the axe falls and he is executed.

There are lots of ghosts and monsters around who have come to watch him being buried.

Symphonie Fantastique (Berlioz)

His beloved is heard, but her tune now sounds horrible. She has come to the Sabbath. She joins the witches and they dance while the funeral music is heard. The first movement has a slow introduction.


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