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Hector Berlioz's major works
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  3. The Story Of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique
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Most disappointingly, Harriet Smithson did not attend.

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The second movement invites us to a ball. Two harps lead the waltz as the music alternates between watching the dancers and spying on the Artist trying to gain the attention of his beloved.

Great Composers: Claude Debussy

After the disappointment of the premiere, Berlioz decided to compete for the prestigious Prix de Rome. For the competition, entrants were given a melody and had to write a fugue a form with very strict rules on the spot. It took Berlioz four years to master the devilish form but at last he won. The Prix de Rome earned Berlioz the national recognition he craved plus a subsidy to study for two years in Rome.

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While in Italy, Berlioz explored the musical landscape of the countryside and continued to polish Symphonie fantastique. The Third Movement of Symphonie fantastique opens with an echo from Berlioz's childhood: the sound of a cowherd's melody. Berlioz uses the huge orchestra to create the sense of suspension of time that intimacy can bring. This movement was the most difficult to compose for Berlioz. The music is always only a heartbeat away from the jealous rages that arise when the Artist sees his beloved with someone else. By , Berlioz was back in Paris and determined to win public opinion with a new version of Symphonie fantastique.

He arranged for a second premiere. Meanwhile, Harriet Smithson was no longer a favorite in Paris and was deeply in debt. Berlioz sent her tickets to the best seats in the house for opening night.

The program notes read, "The Artist, knowing beyond all doubt that his love is not returned, poisons himself with opium. The narcotic plunges him into sleep, accompanied by the most horrible visions. The first of those visions is the "March to the Scaffold. The march echoes the sound of the real life bands that would accompany the condemned to their execution. The military band escorts the prisoner to the enthusiastic cheers of the strings.

In the last instant of his life the Artist thinks of his beloved. Her theme begins but is truncated by the blade of the guillotine. The Artist's head bounces down the steps, the drums roll and the crowds roar. The fifth movement is a satanic dream. The Artist sees himself in the midst of a ghastly crowd of sorcerers and monsters assembled for his funeral. The air is filled with strange groans, bursts of laughter, shouts and echoes.

Suddenly, the Artist's beloved appears as a witch, her theme distorted into spiteful parody.


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A vast church bell begins to chime the peal of death. Bassoons and tubas bark out the Dies Irae — the traditional funeral chant. The orchestra divides into teams to enact a sinister ritual. The groaning theme from the beginning of the movement transforms into a merry black Sabbath dance.

The Story Of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique

The form of the dance is the fugue — after struggling to master the form for the Prix de Rome , Berlioz chose the fugue to represent his vision of hell. The music whips into a frenzy as it bears the soul of the Artist to his damnation. His beloved gloats over the scene.

Berlioz: Biography

Such an ending had never been heard before. At the conclusion of this second premiere, the audience erupted in applause. Harriet Smithson finally understood that Symphonie fantastique was about her. She agreed to receive Berlioz. Hector and Harriet started to act out in reality what the Symphonie fantastique only imagined. He began to woo her and then he did something desperate. Berlioz died in in Paris. Though his career may not have totally fulfilled its earlier promise, he nevertheless had influenced many composers of the Romantic period e.

Liszt and Wagner with his fresh ideas, his approach to orchestration and his skills as a conductor. Berlioz was a true Romantic and frequently chose topics for his musical works which meant something to him personally and in some cases he identified with the characters or circumstances portrayed by the works. He was passionate about many things, and drew inspiration from works of literature and the theatre. He had some famously stormy love relationships and Berlioz also used music to work out his love life, pouring his emotional thoughts and fantasies into his creations.

The Symphonie Fantastique subtitled "Episodes in the Life of an Artist" is an autobiographical account of his obsessive thoughts for the actress Harriet Smithson who Berlioz had seen playing the part of Ophelia in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" he was later to compose a work based on the fictional character.

Hector Berlioz | French composer | jozomibola.tk

Later Berlioz and Smithson married but the marriage broke down. Many of his other relationships appeared to be equally tempestuous, and as a boy Berlioz was prone to having intense crushes on women he admired. As a young man in Italy, when one of the subjects of an obsessive attraction was rumoured to be having an affair, he plotted to return to France and murder the lovers. Berlioz finally recognised the folly of his plot and decided to stay in Italy. After his first marriage had collapsed, Berlioz was later to marry a former mistress Marie Recio. Berlioz wrote 4 major orchestral works which should be categorised as Symphonies, even though they aren't numbered like those of other composers.

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In part this is because they are not abstract works but dramatic programmatic works telling a tangible story. Berlioz therefore set a precedent for later programmatic composers such as Richard Strauss. Sir Colin Davis seems to be a great proponent of Berlioz's music and there are many such recordings by the conductor with some of these being live recordings.


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Search mfiles:. Hector Berlioz For someone who was not formally trained in music, Hector Berlioz has had an enormous influence on its development and some of his pieces seem revolutionary in comparison with other composers of the period. Hector Berlioz's Inspirations Berlioz was a true Romantic and frequently chose topics for his musical works which meant something to him personally and in some cases he identified with the characters or circumstances portrayed by the works.