Hector Berlioz Essay, Research Paper
Hector Berlioz wrote the Symphonie fantastique at the age of 27. He based the program on his own impassioned life and transferred his memoirs into his best- known program symphony. The story is about a love sick, depressed young artist, while in his despair poisons himself with opium. His beloved is represented throughout the symphony by the symbolic idee fixe.
There are five movements throughout symphony.
The program begins with the 1st movement: Reveries, Passions symbolizing the artist?s life prior to meeting his beloved. This is represented as a mundaness and indefinable searching or yearning, until suddenly, he meets her and his longing abruptly ceases and is replaced by volcanic love. The soaring melody becomes the Idee fixe and is introduced in this section.
The 2nd movement: A Ball. This movement is representative of the gala ball where he once again sees his beloved. This section is a dance movement in three-part form. The Idee fixe reappears in waltz time.
The 3rd movement: Scene in the Fields. This section represents a tranquil interval. It is a summer evening in the country and he hears two shepherds piping. The tranquil moment of the quiet summer evening alone with the pastoral duet fills his heart with an unfamiliar calm. Suddenly she appears and her appearance causes an emotional response of sorrowful loneliness.
The 4th movement: March To the Scaffold. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, he is condemned to die and is being lead to the scaffold. At the end of this movement the Idee fixe reappears for a short instance and the reappearance becomes symbolic of the last thought of love that is interrupted by the axe.
The 5th movement: Dream of a Witch?s Sabbath. He imagines himself at a witch?s Sabbath surround by ghastly spirits who have gathered for his funeral. The frightful sounds of groans, shrieks, and shrill laughter echo in his ears. Then, suddenly again the Idee fixe appears. It is his beloved. But the familiar Idee fixe is no longer the reserved and noble melody of the prior movements. The Idee fixe has now taken on new form and has become vulgar and grotesque. She has come to this diabolical orgy. The witches greet her with howling joy and she joins them in the demonic dance; Bells toll for the Dead.
Listening Guide 25 is the 4th movement, March To the Scaffold: The diabolical march is in minor and the Idee fixe is heard in the last part of this movement. The clarinet is the instrument that represents the Idee fixe and at the very end it is cut off by a grievous fortissimo chord and then ends in a hadean quintessence.
The medium is a large orchestra, (flute, piccolo, 2 clarinets, 4 french horns, 4 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 cornets, 3 trombones, 2 ophideiodes, 2 timpani, bass drum, bells, strings).
The form is loose tenary (A-B-A). The movement is in 6 sections. It begins with the introduction of ominous drumbeats and muted brass. The introduction ends with an exploding crescendo of a base drum which immediately introduces the 2nd section of theme A of low strings in a slow cautious tempo, and is picked up by violins. Theme B brass and woodwinds enter and picks up the tempo of diabolical march tune. The opening section is then repeated. The 3rd or mid section is the development section. The tenary (B-A-B-A) Begins with theme B in brass, then theme A pizzicato strings, alternating again to B in Brass then Theme A. The 5th section is Theme A in full orchestra in original form, then inverted, (ascending scale). The 6th section, the melody Idee fixe in clarinet, (?a last thought of love?), in ?dolce assai e passionato?, followed by loud chord that cuts off melody, significant of (?the fall of the axe?).
The introduction begins with the distant sound of a steady beating drum that seems to become louder . The steady beat is a march It has a serious tone with a non changing beat. The melody of the march is flat and gives a sense of impending dume. The brass bursts in on the monotone drum beat and suddenly takes over the melody and soars in an ascending sound, reaching an apex and creschendos and then subsides with low strings carrying the melody in a decending scale . There is a recapulation of this ascending and descending sound and then the viola and bassoon unassumingly enter and slowly begin to form there own quick little melody , totally unrelated to the grander melody of the brass that maintains the deeper, grander, slower background.
At the mid-section of this movement , it begins to take on an abstract quality. The theme becomes more developed here and Belois employs the use of oppisite extremes to relay the moods of a manic-depressive state. He picks up the tempo in full ochrestra in what seems to be allegro in a grand triumphant march and then adds a disjunct touch by sudden ly slowing the tempo down in low strings to a delilerate depressive crawl. A dissonance of the melody is heard when he adds a sczophrantic touch by adding the bizaar violin plucks.
In the last section at the closing, the strings pick up at a frantic pace giving the feeling that a new moment of anxiety has arisen and then suddenly, all is quiet and the Idee fixe, the sweet melody of the clarinet is heard . Without warning the axe has fallen, the sweet clarinet melody is cut off by the crash of a symbol and then the coda.
Harriet Smithson should be proud to have this symphonie written about her. The symphonie fantastique fourth movement relates a quality of energy that is consistant with inapropriate mood changes that can sometimes be captured when in a dream-like state. The march to the scafold begins to become disoriented when rather then a death march, it starts to develop a pompous overtone, and become more or a grand prominade, but this is part of the composer?s genous. He composed the music to what would be the disjunct qualities of a dream-like state. This music relates an abstractness that is symbolic of the mind in a semi- conscious state.