Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique
The South Birmingham Sinfonia will be performing this symphony as
part of the Winter 2015 concerts.
Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique,
("Fantastic Symphony: An Episode in the Life of an Artist, in Five Parts")
is a five movement work based on a programme inspired by De Quincy's
"Confessions of an Opium Eater" and by Berlioz's own
love for the Irish actress Harriet Smithson. It was first performed in 1830.
The five movements are as follows.
- Rêveries – Passions (Daydreams – Passions). A young musician, sees
for the first time a woman who unites all the charms of the ideal
person his imagination was dreaming of, and falls desperately in love
- Un bal (A ball). In the tumult of a festive party, in the
peaceful contemplation of the beautiful sights of nature,
whether in town or in the countryside, the beloved image
keeps haunting him and throws his spirit into confusion.
- Scène aux champs (Scene in the Country). Hearing a pastoral
duet given by two shepherds in the distance gives some cause for hope that
he has recently conceived, all conspire to restore to his heart an
unaccustomed feeling of calm and to give to his thoughts a happier
colouring. He broods on his loneliness, and hopes that soon he will
no longer be on his own.
- Marche au supplice (March to the Scaffold). 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.
- Songe d'une nuit de sabbat (Dream of a Witches' Sabbath). He
sees himself at a witches’ sabbath, in the midst of a hideous
gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have
come together for his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, outbursts of
laughter; distant shouts which seem to be answered by more
shouts. The beloved melody appears once more, but has now lost its
noble and shy character; it is now no more than a vulgar dance tune,
trivial and grotesque: it is she who is coming to the sabbath.
Unlike in Berlioz's fantasy, Harriet Smithson heard the music and
obviously appreciated it. Berlioz and Smithson married in 1833
but the marriage was not to be a happy one and they eventually separated.