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Completed in 1830, Berlioz¶s Symphonie fanstique is a five-movement program


symphony. One of the most innovative orchestral works ever composed. An unusual
aspect of this composition is that the recurring melody that appears in every movement of
the work. The beloved is represented by a recurring melody that Berlioz calls an ³idée
fixe.´ This term means ³obsession.´

Another unusual aspect for this symphony is its creative use of musical form and
orchestral sound. Berlioz used brass and percussion combined to produce bombastic
effects, and bizarre string writing produces and eerie sound. Berlioz also includes some
unusual instruments such as ophecleides and serpents for example.

The first movement of the piece is entitled ³Daydreams, passions.´ In the long
introduction, marked ³Largo,´ the young musician remembers the indefinable yearning
he experienced before meeting his beloved. The main part of the movement is in
modified sonata form. The idée fixe, the main theme, is an expansive, elegantly
contoured theme that conveys the beloved¶s noble nature.

The second movement of the piece is entitled ³A Ball.´ The young musician
glimpses his beloved amid and tumult and excitement of a brilliant ball. Marked ³Allegro
no troppo,´ this movement is a waltz in ternary form. The idée fixe appears as a hunting
melody in the middle section.

The third movement of the piece is entitled ³Scene in the Fields.´ The young
musician hears two shepherds piping on a summer evening in the country. Their pastoral
duet in such quiet surroundings induces a feeling of calm, but it is interrupted by a vision
of the beloved that alarms him, producing painful forebodings. Marked ³Adagio,´ this
expressive movement is in ternary form.

The fourth movement of the piece is entitled ³March to the Scaffold.´ Here the
young musician dreams that he has killed his beloved and had been condemned to death
and is being led to the scaffold. The idée fixe appears at the end, played by clarinet like
³a last thought of love,´ buit is cut off by a loud chord that represents the fall of the axe.
This quadruple meter march in G minor is in sonata form.

The fifth and last movement of the piece is entitled ³Dream of a Witches¶
Sabbath.´ Here the lovesick young musician sees himself at a witches¶ Sabbath
surrounded by a crowd of ghosts who have gathered for his funeral. This concluding
movement contains several themes and sections. The movement begins with an
Introduction marked ³Larghetto´ that evokes an eerie, hellish scenario.
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The Allegro(Section A) begins with the idée fixe. Animated by an awkward


sounding rhythm in 6/8 time, it has lost its elegance and nobility. Then, a prolonged
orchestral roar featuring bombastic brass sounds conveys the ³howl of joy´ at the
beloved¶s arrival. The bassoons play a grotesque accompaniment as the idée fixe is
repeated and extended.

At the beginning of Section B, the first phrase of the Dies irae, a solemn chant
melody from the Catholic Requiem Mass, is played slowly by bassoons, ophecleides and
serpents, twice as fast by trombones and horns, then faster again in an awkward dotted
rhythm by the strings and woodwinds.

After an introduction that presents fragments of the Witches¶ Round Dance


theme, the dance begins in the low strings. This is Section C. The fugato develops as
entries of the theme appear successively in the cellos and double basses, second violins,
the first violins, and finally in the winds and brass. The dance music dies out gradually,
then low strings produce strange sounds as they play fragments of the Dies irie and the
Witches¶ Round Dance theme.

At the beginning of Section D, a gradual build up of excitement begins pianissimo,


with more imitative entries based on a strange, chromatic version of the Witches¶ Dance
theme. It culminates in the combination of the Withes¶ Dance theme (in the strings) and
the Dies irie (in the brass). Part way through this section the strings plays the Witches
Dance theme with the wood of their bows, producing an effect known as col legno.
Excitement builds to a fevered pitch. The movement concludes with a prolonged.
Bombastic cadence animated by a faster tempo and a gruesome double reminiscence of
the Dies irae.