Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique 4th Movement

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Symphonie Fantastique
4th Movement
Hector Berlioz

The piece of music I have chosen to write about from the Romantic period is Hector Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique,’ and to focus on the 4th movement of the Symphony. It was composed in 1830 as programme music. The story behind this particular movement is that Berlioz has dreamt that he has killed the woman he loves and is now being marched to the guillotine to be killed in return for her murder. The piece starts off at a relatively slow pace at the start, but gradually gathers momentum until it is quite fast and lively and so I would assume the tempo is somewhere between Allegro and Vivacissimo by the end of the movement. This change in tempo is a common characteristic of the romantic period which had previously not been seen in music. Also, as common place with much romantic music this piece has a very large dynamic range and Berlioz uses it to full extent with sudden changes from things like mezzo piano to mezzo forte. To help with the programme music aspect of the piece this movement is a march, representing Berlioz being marched to his death. The key of the piece for the most part is minor to help set the mood and tone so it is easier to picture the man being brought to his excicution. However this changes near the end of the piece when the ‘Idea fixe,’ melody enters (this represents Berlioz thinking of his beloved before he dies) and is abruptly cut off by a fortissimo G minor chord which represents the guillotine blade ending Berlioz’s life. This is followed by a triumphant sounding 9 bars played in G major in celebration of getting justice for the murdered woman. This piece is homophonic and played with a full orchestra. Berlioz places heavy emphasis on percussion and horns to achieve a very strong emotive sound for this movement. I choose this piece because I think it is a beautiful and inspiring piece that really shows off the skill and genius of Hector Berlioz as a composer that he could write...
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