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Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique

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Historically, the romantic period in classical music is regarded as a finite time-p during which a substantial number of loosely "aligned" composer who enjoyed no overt or demonstrable relationship to any artistic movement flourished. The Romantic movement in classical music is generally understood as occurring during "first half or three-quarters of the nineteenth century" (Mason, 1906, p. 2). and chief among the recognized composers are "Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Chopin, Liszt," (Mason, 1906, p. 2). and a great many others.

Although the word "romantic" as it relates to classical music is rooted in historical grounds, a specific, if overall loose, set of aesthetic principles is also discernable in the work of romantic composers. The aesthetic principles of romanticism in classical music arise primarily from a willingness to innovate and approach music from interesting and novel viewpoints. In its widest definition, romanticism in music refers to "interest in novel and strange elements of artistic effect. "(Mason, 1906, p. 4). and also a pursuit of beauty as a "fixed element in every artistic organization," (Mason, 1906, p.

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4). which distinguishes romantic work from non-romantic works on aesthetic grounds. Symphonie Fantastique, by Hector Berlioz is considered by many critics to represent the most complete expression of Berlioz's romantic aesthetic. Berlioz expresses himself quite innovatively in the symphony as is evident by his contribution to "programme" music, or the articulation of "melodies, not as materials for a purely musical development, but as symbols of characters or other dramatic motives, thereby anticipating the leit-motif idea which later became so prominent in the work of Wagner and Liszt.

" (Mason, 1906, p. 277). Because Symphonie Fantastique deals with the theme of human love, Berlioz is able to give full-flight not only to his aesthetic concepts involving prototypical leit-motifs, but also to a notion of emotional expression which is also thematically integrated in the overall work. Because of this Symphonie Fantastique" "remains one of his most characteristic productions. " (Mason, 1906, p. 276), and one which fully realizes the tenants of romanticism as described above.

In addition to innovative use of melody and theme, Berlioz experimented with musical arrangements and the generation of unique sound-scapes via experimentation with instruments: Love of the bizarre and the unusual led him often to employ rare instruments, or to use the ordinary ones in freakish ways. The harp, the English horn, and the cornet figure frequently in his scores, and he likes to direct that the horns be put in bags, that the cymbal be suspended and struck with a stick, that the drums be played with sticks covered with sponge.

(Mason, 1906, p. 285) The end-result is a symphony which is as revolutionary in conception as it is in execution. The exotic, the unusual, the fanciful and the imaginatively dynamic are all heralds of the romantic aesthetic. In Symphonie Fantastique, Berlioz eschewed rigorous allegiance to tradition to create what, to any early critics, must have seemed like a self-indulgent score; however, the repetition of key leit-motifs throughout the symphony lend the work a classical structure and bearing which allows the more experimental passages to succeed.

Such a creative dispersion of linear and non-linear creative expression might also be regarded as a hallmark of the romantic aesthetic. In conclusion, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique is a quintessential example of romantic music, falling squarely within both the historical and aesthetic contexts generally attributed to the romantic movement in classical music by scholars.

By immersing in an intellectual revolution through music, as one critic remarked, Berlioz was able to apply a "vivid and manysided intelligence" (Mason, 1906, p. 258). to his idealized visions. As a composer who refused to "worship at an orthodox shrine," (Mason, 1906, p. 258) Berlioz contributed a depth and renown to the romantic movement that is still important to this day. References Mason, D. G. (1906). The Romantic Composers. New York: Macmillan.

Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique essay

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