On my way to the concert, I was informed by one of the two piano professors I was attending the concert with about the story of the Symphonie fantastique, including the fact that this is the extreme example of programmatic music, to the point of including the interpretation of the music in the score. And while I tend to favor programmatic music, I think actually telling me what it meant slightly oversimplifies things for my taste. And (as my wife would tell you) I have no memory, so actually telling me what something means is slightly wasted. (At my high school, all the smart kids took art appreciation. I would have done very badly in such a class.)
What I did hear was the tension between the individual and the crowd. As the movements went on there were periods of the individual voice (the idee fix that popped up throughout the piece in different parts of the orchestra). Sometimes the individual voice was enthralled, sometimes depressed, sometimes light hearted, sometimes heavy. And there was the crowd. Sometimes detached. Sometimes driving its own way. And in the march, overwhelming. LIstening to this, I wondered at the tension. The tension of those who would wish to find their own path, who may start off as being treated with benign neglect by the crowd, but then can find themselves in direct conflict with an unforgiving multitude/mob. With a chaotic end.
Of course, re-reading the program notes, I see that what I heard was similar and different then what was intended. But if you make the claim that music and art are forms of communication, and the idea that interpreting a musical work is a collaboration between composer, performer and audience, then this was a delightful example. Even if the attempts of two music professors was somewhat wasted on this leaky memory.