Learning Log Page 15

Hector Berlioz

Symphony Fantastique

Exercise – using notes taken from http://www.hberlioz.com/Scores/fantas.htm


 Part two
A ball   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.

The events in the second movement are conveyed using strings and harp to begin with, the strings are used to give a delicacy to the movement. Combined with the strings it can convey birdsong and feelings of nature – water running, animals playing. These are then used effectively in a waltz which sounds so happy that you feel that he is in the midst of the waltz enjoying himself but then you get that little frisson of melancholia which to me conveys that the image of his unrequited love has just broken through into his thoughts and he is temporarily sidetracked before he is transported back to what he was doing. The movement ends quite gaily in the waltz style.


Part four
March to the scaffold
Convinced that his love is spurned, 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. 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. At the end of the march, the first four bars of the idée fixe reappear like a final thought of love interrupted by the fatal blow.

Very dour brass is used to start this movement and then comes what I think are maybe the cellos and double basses combined with the deep sounding of woodwind. These convey a heaviness which is a sleepy feeling but the pizzicato strings could be the visions interrupting his poisonous sleep. The procession is heavy on strings and brass but then quite brings with strings which make it lighter, almost elegiac, the footsteps are represented by the timpani and then at the end is the motif coming in, the unrequited love turns up before he is executed in his dream.

Does Berlioz succeed in conveying his narrative to music. Yes I do think that. If I were reading the programme notes and listening to the piece for the first time I would be able to feel the feelings coming through in the various instruments

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