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The Fantastic Symphony

How did the Fantastic Symphony appear?

It was initially called An Episode in the Life of an artist, the fantastic symphony in five parts. It has rather the structure of a symphonic poem than that of a symphony. It was finished on the 5th of December 1830 and it was dedicated to the Emperor of Russia, Nikolai I. It appeared only nine years after the composition of the Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven, but there are many differences between the two. Here Hector Berlioz brings a whole series of innovations, especially regarding the orchestration.

"I have written this symphony having many fears with respect to some parts and an incredible easiness if I came to think of the others. Thus, the third Adagio Scene in the Fields, which usually moves the audience, caused me so much fatigue that I hadn't been able to write anything during the next three weeks. I had put the score aside, but then I restarted working twice or thrice. The "March to the Scaffold", on the contrary, was written in a single night" (Memories, chap.26-Hector Berlioz).

"The first audition was not flawless. And it couldn't have been otherwise, we only had two rehearsals. These were not enough for such a difficult piece of work. "A Ball", the "March to the Scaffold", the "Dreams of a Witch's Sabbath" were sensational. The "Dreams of a Witch's Sabbath", in particular, created excitement among the audience. The "Scene in the Fields", on the contrary, did not produce any effect on it" (Memories, chap.31-Hector Berlioz).

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