Music Composers

Hector Berlioz-Part 6

His Tremendous Orchestral Effects

I have quoted in detail the program of this work, as it gives a characteristic of Berlioz' individuality. His fantasy and his other music have something morbid and chaotic, which borders on insanity. Even the extravagant orchestral masses he uses in his works are a symptom of his abnormality. In his smaller works he usually writes for an orchestra of more than usual size, using by preference four bassoons instead of two and reinforcing his trumpets with cornets a piston. In the Requiem and Te Deum his forces are enormous; the wind doubled, an immense number of strings, and for the Tuba mirum and Lacrymosa, four small bands of brass instruments and eight pairs of kettledrums in addition to big drums, gongs and cymbals. To get the right effect in the Tuba mirum Berlioz prescribed that the four brass bands were placed one at each corner of the body of instrumentalists and choristers. As they join in, the tempo doubles to represent the "titanic cataclysm," the Last Judgment.

"Si j' etais menace de voir bruler mon ocuvre entiere, moin une partition, c'est pour le Requiem que je demanderaiss grace." (If I were Threatened with the burning of my entire works, less one, it is for the Requiem I would beg exemption.) Thus wrote Berlioz in one of his last letters (11 Jan., 1867).

I remember at a performance of the Requiem at the Philharmonie in Berlin the public came chiefly to hear the "explosion" of the band of kettledrums. The rest made very little impression.

The Etude Magazine September 1919





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