Symphonie fantastique

Symphonie fantastique: Épisode de la vie d’un artiste … en cinq parties (Fantastical Symphony: An illustration in the Life of one Artist, in five Parts) Op. 14 is a regimen symphony created by the French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830. That is an important piece that the beforehand Romantic period, and also is popular with concert audience worldwide. The first performance was at the Paris Conservatoire in December 1830. The work was repeatedly revived after 1831 and subsequently ended up being a favourite in Paris.

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The score calls because that a full of over 90 instrumentalists, the many of any symphony created to that time. Specifically:

2 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (one copy cor anglais), 2 soprano clarinets (one copy E♭ clarinet), 4 bassoons4 horns, 2 cornets, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones (alto, tenor, and bass), 2 tubas/ophicleides2 bag of timpani, cymbals, exposed cymbal, tenor drum, base drum, bells (sounding C and G)2 harpsstrings (Berlioz stated at least 15 1st violins, 15 2nd violins, 10 violas, 11 celli and 9 basses top top the score)


The symphony is a piece of regimen music the tells the story the “an artist gifted through a lively imagination” who has “poisoned himself with opium” in the “depths that despair” due to the fact that of “hopeless love.” Berlioz listed his very own program notes because that each motion of the work (see below). He prefaces his notes through the complying with instructions:

The composer’s intention has been to build various illustration in the life of an artist, in so far as they loan themselves to music treatment. As the occupational cannot rely on the assistance of speech, the plan of the critical drama demands to be collection out in advance. The following programme must because of this be taken into consideration as the spoken text of one opera, which offer to introduce musical movements and to motivate their character and also expression.

There are five movements, instead of the four movements that were standard for symphonies at the time:

Rêveries – Passions (Reveries– Passions)Un bal (A Ball)Scène aux champs (Scene in the Fields)Marche au supplice (March come the Scaffold)Songe d’une nuit du sabbat (Dream that the Night of the Sabbath)

First movement: “Rêveries – Passions” (Reveries – Passions)

In Berlioz’s very own program notes from 1845, the writes:

The writer imagines that a young vivid musician, afflicted by the sickness of soul which a well known writer has called the wave> that passions , sees because that the an initial time a woman who unites all the charm of the ideal human being his creativity was dreaming of, and also falls desperately in love v her. By a strange anomaly, the beloved picture never presents itself to the artist’s mind without being linked with a music idea, in which that recognises a specific quality the passion, but endowed with the nobility and shyness which he credits to the thing of his love.

This melodic image and also its design keep haunting that ceaselessly prefer a twin idée fixe. This describes the constant recurrence in all the movements of the symphony that the melody i m sorry launches the first allegro. The transitions native this state the dreamy melancholy, interrupted by occasional upsurges of indifferent joy, come delirious passion, through its outbursts that fury and jealousy, its returns of tenderness, its tears, its spiritual consolations – every this creates the subject of the first movement.


Most of the rest of this post is duplicated directly from the publication “Hector Berlioz: The complete Guide”.: “The first movement is radical in that harmonic outline, building a substantial arch back to the residence key; while comparable to the sonata type of the classical period, Parisian doubters regarded this together unconventional. That is right here that the listener is introduced to the layout of the artist’s beloved, or the idée fixe. Throughout the activity there is a simplicity in the way melodies and also themes are presented, which Robert Schumann likened come ‘Beethoven’s epigrams’ ideas that might be prolonged had the composer chosen to. In part, that is because Berlioz rejected composing the an ext symmetrical melodies then in scholastic fashion, and also instead sought melodies that were ‘so intense in every note regarding defy typical harmonization’, as Schumann placed it.

The theme itself to be taken from Berlioz’s scène lyrique “Herminie”, created in 1828.

Second movement: “Un bal” (A Ball)

Again, quoting indigenous Berlioz’s routine notes:

The artist finds self in the many diverse situations in life, in the tumult that a festive party, in the serene contemplation that the beautiful sights of nature, yet everywhere, even if it is in city or in the countryside, the beloved image keeps haunting him and throws his spirit into confusion.

The 2nd movement has actually a mysterious-sounding introduction that create an setting of impending excitement, complied with by a passage conquered by two harps; then the flow waltz template appears, obtained from the idée fixe at first, then transforming it. Much more formal statements of the idée fixe twice interrupt the waltz.

The motion is the just one to function the 2 harps, giving the glamour and also sensual wealth of the ball, and also may also symbolise the thing of the young man’s affection. Berlioz wrote broadly in his memoirs of his trials and tribulations in having actually this symphony performed, as result of a absence of capable harpists and harps, particularly in Germany.

Another function of this motion is that Berlioz included a component for solo cornet come his autograph score, although it was not had in the score released in his lifetime. The work has actually most frequently been played and recorded there is no the solo cornet part. Conductors Jean Martinon, sir Colin Davis, rose oil Klemperer, Gustavo Dudamel, and Leonard Slatkin have actually employed this part for cornet in performances the the symphony.

Third movement: “Scène aux champs” (Scene in the Fields)

From Berlioz’s program notes:

One night in the landscape he hears two shepherds in the distance dialoguing through their ‘ranz des vaches’; this pastoral duet, the setting, the tenderness rustling that the tree in the wind, some causes for hope the he has actually recently conceived, all conspire to gain back to his love an unaccustomed emotion of calm and also to provide to his think a more happiness colouring. That broods top top his loneliness, and hopes that shortly he will certainly no longer be ~ above his very own … however what if she betrayed him! … This mingled hope and also fear, these principles of happiness, disturbed by dark premonitions, form the subject of the adagio. At the finish one that the shepherds resumes his ‘ranz des vaches’; the other one no longer answers. Remote sound the thunder … solitude … silence …

The 2 “shepherds” Berlioz mentions in the notes are portrayed with a cor anglais and offstage oboe tossing an evocative melody earlier and forth. ~ the cor anglais–oboe conversation, the primary theme that the movement shows up on solo flute and violins. Berlioz salvaged this layout from his abandoned Messe solennelle.  The idée fixe returns in the middle of the movement, played by oboe and also flute.  The sound of far-off thunder in ~ the end of the motion is a striking i for four timpani.

Fourth movement: “Marche au supplice” (March to the Scaffold)

From Berlioz’s program notes:

Convinced the his love is unappreciated, the artist prisoner himself through opium. The dose of narcotic, while also weak to reason his death, plunges him right into a heavy sleep attach by the strangest that visions. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he is condemned, brought about the scaffold and is angry his own execution. As he cries because that forgiveness the results of the narcotic set in. He wants to hide yet he cannot so he watches together an onlooker as he dies. The procession advances to the sound the a march that is occasionally sombre and wild, and sometimes brilliant and also solemn, in i m sorry a dull sound of heavy footsteps adheres to without transition the loudest outbursts. At the finish of the march, the very first four bars the the idée fixe reappear choose a last thought that love interrupted through the deadly blow as soon as his head bounced down the steps.

Berlioz asserted to have actually written the fourth movement in a single night, reconstructing music indigenous an unfinished project – the opera Les francs-juges.  The movement starts with timpani sextuplets in thirds, for which he directs: “The first quaver of every half-bar is to be played v two drumsticks, and the other 5 with the right hand drumsticks”.The activity proceeds together a march filled through blaring horns and rushing passages, and scurrying numbers that later show up in the critical movement. Prior to the music depiction that his execution, there is a brief, nostalgic recollection that the idée fixe in a solo clarinet, as though representing the last conscious thought the the soon-to-be-executed man. Instantly following this is a single, quick fortissimo G boy chord – the fatal blow of the guillotine blade, followed by a series of pizzicato note representing the roll of the severed head into the basket. after ~ his death, the last nine bars of the motion contain a victorious series of G significant brass chords, along with rolls that the snare north within the whole orchestra, look at intended come convey the cheering that the onlooking throng.

Fifth movement: “Songe d’une nuit du sabbat” (Dream of the Night that the Sabbath)

From Berlioz’s routine notes:

He sees self at a witches’ sabbath, in the midst of a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters the every type who have actually come with each other for his funeral. Weird sounds, groans, outbursts of laughter; far-off shouts which seem to it is in answered by much more shouts. The lover melody shows up once more, however has now lost its noble and also shy character; the is now no more than a vulgar run tune, trivial and also grotesque: it is she who is comes to the sabbath … Roar of joy at she arrival … She join the diabolical orgy … The funeral knell tolls, burlesque parody that the die irae, the dance of the witches. The dance of the witches combined with the dies irae.

This movement deserve to be separated into part according come tempo changes:

The development is Largo, in usual time, creating an ominous high quality through dynamic variations and instrumental effects, an especially in the strings (tremolos, pizz, sf).At bar 21 the tempo alters to Allegro and also the metre come 6/8. The return the the idée fixe together a “vulgar run tune” is portrayed by the C clarinet. This is interrupted by one Allegro Assai ar in cut common at bar 29.The idée fixe climate returns together a significant E-flat clarinet solo in ~ bar 40, in 6/8 and also Allegro. The E-flat clarinet contributes a sharper, much more shrill timbre than the C clarinet.At bar 80, there is one bar that alla breve, with descending crotchets in unison v the entire orchestra. Again in 6/8, this section sees the introduction of tubular bells and fragments of the “witches’ ring dance”.The “Dies irae” starts at bar 127, the motif obtained from the 13th-century Latin sequence. That is initially stated in unison between the unusual mix of four bassoons and also two tubas.At bar 222, the “witches’ round dance” motif is repeatedly stated in the strings, to be interrupted by three syncopated notes in the brass. This leads into the Ronde du Sabbat (Sabbath Round) in ~ bar 241, whereby the motif is lastly expressed in full.The die irae et Ronde du Sabbat Ensemble section is at bar 414.

There are a host of effects, consisting of eerie col legno in the strings – the bubbling that the witches’ cauldron to the blasts that wind. (Berlioz’s use of the word “orgy” concerns a cultic gathering and not the an ext modernized meaning.) The climactic finale combine the somber die Irae melody through the wild fugue the the Ronde du Sabbat.

The target of the 2nd kind the imitation, together we have actually said before, is come reproduce the intonations that the passions and the emotions, and also even to trace a musical image, or metaphor, of objects that can only be seen. The constant interruption of the die irae motif through the strings symbolizes this consistent fight of death until the movement and piece eventually, together we all do offered in to the die irae theme and also our eventual yet necessary deaths.

He later on adds:

…Emotional (imitation) is designed to arouse in us by means of sound the id of the number of passions of the heart, and also to awaken specifically through the sense of hear the impressions that people experience only through the various other senses. Such is the goal of expression, depiction or musical metaphors.

As part of this the uses an example of cyclical structure – one idea drawn from Beethoven’s usage of similar rhythmic structures in his fifth Symphony, and the idea of music “cycles”, such as a “song cycle”. Berlioz go not recognize of Mendelssohn’s Octet, which additionally uses this device.

Leonard Bernstein described the symphony as the first musical expedition into psychedelia due to the fact that of its hallucinatory and dream-like nature, and because background suggests Berlioz written at least a section of the under the affect of opium. Follow to Bernstein, ‘Berlioz tells it favor it is. You take it a trip, friend wind increase screaming at your own funeral.’

In 1831, Berlioz wrote a lesser recognized sequel to the work, Lélio, because that actor, orchestra and chorus. Franz Liszt made a piano warrior of the symphony in 1833 (S.470).

Though the Symphonie fantastique calls for only a fairly big orchestra, together conductors as Zubin Mehta and Gustavo Dudamel have conducted performances of the work-related with orchestras of over 200 players.

Harriet Smithson

After attending a power of Shakespeare’s Hamlet on 11 September 1827 Berlioz dropped in love with the irish actress Harriet Smithson who had actually played the duty of Ophelia. He sent her countless love letters, every one of which walk unanswered. Once she left Paris they had actually still no met. He then created the symphony as a means to express his unrequited love. It premiered in Paris ~ above 5 December 1830; Harriet was not present. She at some point heard the occupational in 1832 and realized his genius. The two finally met, and also they to be married ~ above 3 October 1833. Their marriage came to be increasingly bitter, and also eventually castle separated after number of years that unhappiness.

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Use in well-known culture

Symphonie fantastique was featured in the films “The Shining,” “Sleeping with the Enemy,” and was the basis for the short film critical Night’s Symphonie (2014), a dark comedy the re-imagines the story of the symphony. Set in Brooklyn and Manhattan, the film tells the story that a young man who enjoys a wild night the end on the town through an adventurous young woman, just to challenge the after-effects once the fantasy ends and reality kicks in. The film is component of the Filmelodic movie series, one ongoing collection of stories drawn from classic music and also screened with live musicians.



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