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Symphonie fantastique

Symphonie fantastique (Fantastic Symphony). Orch. work, Op.14, in C major by Berlioz, comp. 1830 when he was 26, although some of the 3rd movt. was adapted from the Messe Solennelle of 1824. F.p. Paris, 5 Dec. 1830. F. Eng. p. Manchester, cond. Hallé, 9 Jan. 1879. F. complete London p., cond. W. Ganz, April 1881. One of most remarkable Romantic comps. and forerunner of the programme-syms. and sym.-poems of Liszt, Mahler, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and others. Sub-titled ‘Episode in the Life of an artist’, it was inspired by Berlioz's then unrequited love for the Irish actress Harriet Smithson, whom he later married. This is symbolized in the mus. by a melody (idée fixe) which acts as a motto-theme recurring in various guises, like a Wagnerian leitmotiv, in each of the 5 movts. A theme in the 1st movt. was taken from a song Berlioz wrote when he was 12 and the March to the Scaffold was taken from his unfinished opera Les Francs Juges (1826). Berlioz rev. the Symphonie Fantastique in Rome, 1831–2, and made other re-touchings before publication 1846. Titles of the movts. are: 1. Rêveries, passions (Dreams, Passions). 2. Un bal (A ball). 3. Scène aux champs (Scene in the fields). 4. Marche au supplice (March to the Scaffold). 5. Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat (Dream of a Witches' Sabbath). Arr. for pf. by Liszt, 1833. See also Lélio.

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