Music Composers

Hector Berlioz-Part 5

"Hello, Crispino! what brings you here?"
"To tell the truth, I've got no money."
"You have no money? What business is that of mine, oh, mightiest of scamps?"
"I am no scamp. If you call me a scamp because I have no money you are right, but if it is because I was two years at Civita Vecchia you are wrong. I wasn't sent to the galleys for stealing, but just for good honest shots at strangers in the mountains."

He was hurt in his feelings and, to be appeased, would only accept "three piasters, a shirt and a neckerchief." So relates Berlioz in his memoirs.

One of the obligatory works he sent to Paris was a part of a mass performed at St. Roch several years before he got the Rome prize. The "powers" said that he had made great progress.

In a letter to Ferrand (April, 1830) he tells the story which he tries to express in his Symphonie Fantastique.

"The opening adagio presents a young artist with a lively imagination and a sensitive temperament, plunged in that half-morbid reverie which French writers express as the beson d'aimer" In the allegro which follows he meets his fate; the woman who realizes the ideal of beauty and charm for which his heart has yearned; and give himself up to the passion with which she inspires him. His love is typified by a sentimental melody given in full at the opening of the movement, and repeated in various thematic forms throughout the whole work. The second movement proper is an adagio in which the artist wanders alone through the fields, listening to the shepherd's pipe and mutterings of a distant storm and dreaming of the new-born hope that has come to sweeten his solitude. Next comes a ballroom scene, in which he stands apart, silent and preoccupied, watching the dancers with a listless, careless gaze and cherishing in his heart the persistent melody. In a fit of despair he poisons himself with opium, but the narcotic, instead of killing him, produces a horrible vision in which he imagines that he has killed his mistress and that he is condemned to die. The fourth movement is the march to the scene of execution, a long, grim procession, winding up with the idee fixe and the sharp flash of the guillotine. Last comes the Pensee d'une tete coupee, a hideous orgy of witches and demons who dance round the coffin, perform a burlesque "Dies Irae" as in funeral rite, and welcome with diabolic glee a brutalized and degraded version of the original subject. And so the symphonie ends with an indescribable scene of chaos and fury.

The Etude Magazine September 1919





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