Berlioz

Full Name: Hector Berlioz
Pronunciation: Burr-lee-otz
Era: Romantic
Years active: 1803-1869

Number of compositions: 29
Number of symphonies: 0 (well sort of 2)
Number of concertos: 0
Number of string quartets: 0

Style: Berlioz was the first barnstorming, truly Romantic composer. Berlioz took the new idea of emotion-filled music that Beethoven had started and ran about two hundred miles with it (up the side of a stormy, dramatic looking mountain, probably).

Romantic? So he was into flowers and candy? Not quite. Romantic when capitalized, and used in reference to classical music, means the specific type of music that came into being during the 19th century. Romantic music is when composers emphasize emotion over pure technical form. An ultra-Romantic stereotype would be the great, but unappreciated and starving artist so desperately in love with a woman he only knows from a poem, that he travels halfway across the country to see her, sleeping in haystacks. When he finally arrives in his worn-out shoes it turns out she is getting married to another man, so he flings himself off the castle walls in front of the entire ceremony. Thats the kind of life Berlioz aspired to.

Really? Yeah check this out

Symphonie Fantastique, 4th Movement

One of his most famous pieces, the Symphony Fantastique musically describes a young artist falling hopelessly in unrequited love with a girl. The hero obsesses over how perfect she is for about three movements, before pumping himself full of opium and promptly having a vision of his own execution in the 4th.You hear the bit at the end, where it gets all peaceful for a second, and then there are two little thuds and a drumroll? Well that peaceful bit represents the girl, which is the protagonists dying thought: the two thuds are the drop of a guillotine and the heros head bouncing on the floor.

Try London Symphony Orchestra & Sir Colin Davis – Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Symphonie Fantastique, 5th Movement

The final movement is post-death, where the hero arrives in hell, right in middle of a witches sabbath and/or orgy (theyre like bread and butter for witches). And guess who one of the witches is? Yeah, his former object of desire. This is represented in the music by the chick-melody changing into a grotesque little jig. It takes a few listens to the entire piece to really appreciate the metamorphosis, but the entire symphony is based around that little melody changing from pure and beautiful, into ugly and sinful. Awesome!

Try London Symphony Orchestra & Sir Colin Davis – Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

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