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Hector Berlioz- Symphonie Fantastique

1
st
Movement
Symphonie Fantastique is a program symphony written by French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830.
It tells the story of "an artist gifted with a lively imagination" who has "poisoned himself with opium"
in the "depths of despair" because of "hopeless love." There are five movements, instead of the
conventional four movements in symphonies of the time.
The first movement, Rveries Passions (Daydreams Passions), is about a young, vibrant musician
who is able to see ghosts, sees his perfect woman and falls in love with her. Strangely, the woman is
always accompanied by a musical idea, in which he recognises a certain quality of passion, but
endowed with the nobility and shyness which he credits the object of his love. The woman and the
melody ceaselessly haunt him, like a double ide fixe or a recurring theme, which explains the
constant recurrence of the first melody in all movements of the symphony. The subject of the first
movement is formed by transitions from a state of dreamy melancholy, interrupted by occasional
upsurges of joy, passion, fury, jealousy and tenderness.
The first movement is extremely slow, to be played Largo- slow and stately and the key of C minor is
established in the first two bars. Bars 3-6 is the introductory four-bar phrase played by Violin I. This
four bar theme forms the basis upon which the following three phrases originate, until bar 16.

Introductory theme- Bars 3-6
The key modulates to C major, back to C minor, to E flat Major, to C minor and finally arrives at a C
major cadence in bar 62.
Bars 72-111 The first subject or the idee fixe which is played by the flute and violin I in C major,
accompanied by minimal strings accompaniment. The theme is imbalanced with
phrases of unequal length, making it instantly distinguishable from the preferred
order and balance of the Classical period. Berlioz includes an extensive use of
chromaticism and very detailed expression marks. This first subject is repeated a
fourth lower, then in the tonic, then an octave higher etc. The theme moves in a
wave-like motion, i.e. going up then down. On the way up, it is crescendos and
decrescendos on the way down. Throughout this section where the theme is
repeated, there is a gradual crescendo throughout, which is emphasised by the
upward movement. The texture is quite thin, as only the flute and strings are
playing. The repetition of the subject finishes in bar 105 where there is a build-up in
both dynamics and number of notes, until it climaxes in bar 109 at a minum. The
notes then move back down, reverse of before and then build up again, crescendos
to climax where the whole orchestra play a tied semibreve chord in the dominant
key. During this build-up, the texture thickens due to the increasing dynamics and
the addition of instruments.

First subject or Idee Fixe, bars 72-111
Bars 133-149 is a transition passage which provides a rising tension in the approach to the dominant
key. At the start of the passage, a two bar phrase is repeated three times, each one softer than the
last, until the third repeat when the dynamics suddenly increase to ff. This motif is continued, as the
next phrase is also repeated three times, although with diminishing dynamics throughout.
The second subject begins in Bar 150 in the key of G major at bar 160

Second subject, bars 160-166
Bar 167-228 A development section which includes recapitulations and further developments.
Two motifs which also feature during this section of the movement have become
known as the sigh motif (representing a sighing figure of a long note followed by a
short note) and the heartbeat motif (a pair of detached quavers which are usually
emphasised and which represent heartbeat.

Heartbeat motifs, bar 78

Sigh motifs, bar 87
232-278 Recapitulation in the dominant key of G major. This time, the Idee Fixe is in G major,
while the lower strings play the heartbeat motif. It begins with a falling scale,
followed by a rising arpeggio which rise and falls away. The idee fixe is heard as an 8
bar phrase, which is repeated and gradually moving higher, becoming more
passionate with each repetition, created by the bright but warm tone colour of the
violin and the crescendo. It ends with another sigh and falls down in 6ths. However,
this time, it falls down lower and lower, into deeper despair, which is emphasised
through a decrescendo and thinner texture.
278-357 Transition passage that contrasts the sensitive melody before with loud, bold and
quick scalic quaver runs. Confusion is created through the sudden change to
monophonic texture and fortissimo dynamics. The second subject is heard in the
cellos, then moves to the violas, then 2
nd
violins, then new instruments enter with
their own versions of the subject until the full orchestra plays it. The sad dying away
ideas at the end of the idee fixe are explored towards the end of this section. The
despairing phrase seems unable to end, the idea growing darker and more disturbed
through gradually softening dynamics, the melody moving to the double bass (which
has a low pitch) and the use of diminished intervals.


358-409 Further development section which gradually increases in tension. The oboe enters
with a melancholy version of the idee fixe. The rests between each phrase gradually get shorter,
causing the melody to become more and more agitated before dying away. The flute also explores
the idee fixe but also dies away. The flute and the oboe repeat shortened versions of this idea in
2
nd
Theme
unison, until the flute starts to rise alone, complemented by the rest of the orchestra which repeats
a rising 2 bar phrase until the climax with the whole orchestra.
410-450 Full orchestra plays the idee fixe in C major but this time, instead of dying away, the
music continues. It sounds trapped and frantic and a tumultuous atmosphere is created through the
timpani and the high pitched roundabout runs in the strings. A short bridge passage follows
consisting of a desperate sounding rising scale, an effect created by the tremolo in the strings.



451-474 the idee fixe returns again, starting in the flute, then moving to the clarinet. The
oboe plays it in G minor and the bassoon finishes with a solo with soft dynamics. Rising pattern
returns to bridge
475-526 Coda. Ends with a plagal cadence.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7chHNocFAc

4:19 bar 48
6:19 bar 119
8:59 bar 190
Recap bar 232 9:40
Bar 291 ~10:38
Bar 339 11:20
2 bar rising phrase
Frantic passage
Bar 358 11:50
Bar 410 12:42
Bar 450 13:20