Listen to one of the most important orchestral works of the 19th century: Symphonie fantastique from Hector Berlioz.
The Symphonie Fantastique was a revolutionary piece of music in more ways than one. It is the first instrumental work that meticulously follows an extensive programme. In addition, this programme has strong autobiographical traits: Berlioz based it on his relationship with the Irish actress Harriet Smithson.
The first part (Rêveries – Passions) describes the dreams and passions of the artist in love. In the second part (Un Ball) we experience a festive ball, through the eyes of the artist: his beloved dances, but not with him.
Then follows the scene in the countryside (Scene aux champs) with shepherd’s flutes and contentment, but you can hear the thunder rumbling in the distance. In part four (Marche au supplice), the artist dreams of his own execution – he has murdered his beloved – which turns into a hellish nightmare (Songe d’une nuit de Sabbat), a Witches’ Sabbath complete with passing bells and the motif of the Dies Irae, Judgment Day.
Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique Op. 14
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra led by Daniele Gatti.