Symphonie Fantastique preview – Doug Bauman

I’m intrigued by this is an amazing description of a revolutionary piece of music I’ve heard many times before, and I never quite envisioned it quite this way.  This preview is taken from the program notes on the PSO web page:

I.  Dreams, Passions. “The young musician sees for the first time a woman who embodies all the charms of the ideal being of whom he has dreamed, and he falls helplessly in love with her . . . he thinks of his almost insane anxiety of mind, of his raging jealousy, of his reawakening love, of his religious consolation.”

II.  A Ball. “In a ballroom, amidst the confusion of a brilliant festival, he finds the Beloved One again.”

III. Scene in the Fields. “Finding himself in the country at evening, he hears in the distance two shepherds piping the call to their flocks. He reflects on his isolation; he hopes that soon he will no longer be alone. His heart stops beating: what if she were deceiving him? At the end, one of the shepherds resumes his melody, but the other no longer replies . . . the distant sound of thunder . . . solitude . . . silence.”

IV.  March to the Scaffold. “He dreams he has murdered his Beloved, has been condemned to death, and is being led to his execution. At last, the idée fixe returns, and for a moment a last thought of love is revived—only to be cut short by the deathblow.” We hear the chop of the guillotine, the plop of the head into the basket, and the cheer of the crowd.

V. Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath. “He dreams that he is present at a witches’ revel, surrounded by horrible spirits, amidst sorcerers and monsters in many fearful forms, who have come together for his funeral. The Beloved melody is heard again, but it has lost its shy and noble character; it has become a vulgar, trivial, grotesque dance tune.” A bell tolls for the dead and the witches’ round dance combines with the dies irae in the movement’s blazing rush to the end.

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