Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) Essay

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Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)

Berlioz (bear-lee-ohz) was a French composer whose father was a doctor; to please his father, he went to medical school, but he spent more time going to concerts and to the theatre than studying medicine. Berlioz played flute and guitar, but is best known as a composer and orchestrator. As a student at the Paris Conservatory, he tried several times to earn the prestigious Prix de Rome, finally winning in 1830.

During his medical school days, Berlioz attended performances of an English theatrical troupe. Hamlet was part of their repertory, and Hector became infatuated with the actress who played Ophelia. This was really a fixation on the character as played by Harriet
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A Ball. "Amid the tumult and excitement of a brilliant ball he glimpses the loved one again."

3. Scene in the Fields. "On a summer evening in the country he hears two shepherds piping. The pastoral duet, the quiet surroundings...all unite to fill his heart with a long absent calm. But she appears again. His heart contracts. Painful forebodings fill his soul."

4. March to the Scaffold. "He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he has been condemned to die and is being led to the scaffold. At the very end the fixed idea reappears for an instant, like a last thought of love interrupted by the fall of the axe."

5. Dream of a Witches' Sabbath. "He sees himself at a witches' sabbath surrounded by a host of fearsome spirits who have gathered for his funeral. Unearthly sounds, groans, shrieks of laughter. The melody of his beloved is heard, but it has lost its noble and reserved character. It has become a vulgar tune, trivial and grotesque. It is she who comes to the infernal orgy. A howl of joy greets her arrival. She joins the diabolical dance. Bells toll for the dead. A burlesque of the Dies irae [chant from the Requiem Mass]. Dance of the witches. The dance and the Dies irae combined."

[IMAGE]Listen now to the fourth movement, "March to the Scaffold" (CD 3, Tracks 9-14). As you listen,

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