Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Hector Berlioz was a true musical revolutionary whose work seemed as turbulent as the political climate of 19th-century France. With innovative and often controversial orchestrations, complicated rhythms, and frequent use of huge musical forces, he broke almost every rule in the book and changed music for good. Composed when he was just 27, and completed just three years after Beethoven’s death, Symphonie fantastique—subtitled “Episodes in the Life of an Artist”—is Berlioz’s self-portrait of his obsession with the British actress Harriet Smithson. It’s a wild, opium-induced ride charting the composer’s journey from love affair to ultimate execution for the murder of his beloved. A small snippet of music or “idée fixe,” representing Berlioz’s love interest, progresses from sweetness to terror following their elegant first encounter at a sparkling ball, to the terrifying climax upon a witch’s scaffold. The foremost Berlioz interpreter of his time, Sir Colin Davis conducts the LSO in this exhilarating live performance from 2001.

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