Hector Berlioz, an influential French Romantic composer, was born in France on this day in 1803. One of his most well-known (and somewhat autobiographical) works, Symphonie Fantastique (1830), tells the story of a young artist in love with an unattainable woman. The symphony is in five parts and each part tells a different aspect of the story. Lest you think “classical” music is boring, in the fourth part, March to the Scaffold, the artist, while under the influence of opium, dreams he has murdered his love and is being led to his execution. This macabre movement memorably concludes with the sound of the blade falling and the head bouncing down the steps.
If you need a break from studying for finals, check out the following items available in our collection to learn more:
Berlioz : Symphonie fantastique. In this video, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony give a full performance of the work and provide a thought-provoking analysis of the music, program, and composer to enrich the listener’s experience.
Berlioz : scenes from the life and work / edited by Peter Bloom is a collection of twelve essays about Berlioz and his work.
Or if you’d just like to listen to the work while you’re studying, check out this recording by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Symphonie fantastique [sound recording] : op. 14 = Phantastische Symphonie = Fantastic symphony / Hector Berlioz