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Symphony Fantastique - March to the Scaffold (Hector Berlioz)

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Alison Miles

on 29 June 2014

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Transcript of Symphony Fantastique - March to the Scaffold (Hector Berlioz)

SYMPHONY FANTASTIQUE : 4th Movement - MARCH TO THE SCAFFOLD BY HECTOR BERLIOZ BERLIOZ 1803 - 1869 French Romantic composer Began studying music at the age of 12.
Wrote Symphony Fantastique in 1830 A very progressive and experimental composer/conductor for his time and is considered to have made significant contributions to the development of the modern orchestra and orchestration. SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE There are five movements, instead of the four movements which were conventional for symphonies at the time:

1.Rêveries – Passions (Daydreams – Passions)
2.Un bal (A ball)
3.Scène aux champs (Scene in the Country)
4.Marche au supplice (March to the Scaffold)
5.Songe d'une nuit de sabbat (Dream of a Witches' Sabbath) A symphony of program music (music that tells a story) BERLIOZ WROTE HIS OWN PROGRAM NOTES FOR THE SYMPHONY FANTASTIQUE.... 1st Movement The author imagines that a young vibrant musician, afflicted by the sickness of spirit which a famous writer has called the wave of passions, sees for the first time a woman who unites all the charms of the ideal person his imagination was dreaming of, and falls desperately in love with her. By a strange anomaly, the beloved image never presents itself to the artist’s mind without being associated with a musical idea, in which he recognises a certain quality of passion, but endowed with the nobility and shyness which he credits to the object of his love. This melodic image and its model keep haunting him ceaselessly like a double idée fixe. 2nd Movement The artist finds himself in the most diverse situations in life, in the tumult of a festive party, in the peaceful contemplation of the beautiful sights of nature, yet everywhere, whether in town or in the countryside, the beloved image keeps haunting him and throws his spirit into confusion. 3rd Movement One evening in the countryside he hears two shepherds in the distance dialoguing with their 'ranz des vaches'; this pastoral duet, the setting, the gentle rustling of the trees in the wind, some causes for hope that he has recently conceived, all conspire to restore to his heart an unaccustomed feeling of calm and to give to his thoughts a happier colouring. He broods on his loneliness, and hopes that soon he will no longer be on his own... But what if she betrayed him!... This mingled hope and fear, these ideas of happiness, disturbed by dark premonitions, form the subject of the adagio. At the end one of the shepherds resumes his ‘ranz des vaches’; the other one no longer answers. Distant sound of thunder... solitude... silence ... 4th Movement Convinced that his love is unappreciated, the artist poisons himself with opium. The dose of narcotic, while too weak to cause his death, plunges him into a heavy sleep accompanied by the strangest of visions. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he is condemned, led to the scaffold and is witnessing his own execution. As he cries for forgiveness the effects of the narcotic set in. He wants to hide but he cannot so he watches as an onlooker as he dies. The procession advances to the sound of a march that is sometimes sombre and wild, and sometimes brilliant and solemn, in which a dull sound of heavy footsteps follows without transition the loudest outbursts. At the end of the march, the first four bars of the idée fixe reappear like a final thought of love interrupted by the fatal blow when his head bounced down the steps. 5th Movement He sees himself at a witches’ sabbath, in the midst of a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, outbursts of laughter; distant shouts which seem to be answered by more shouts. The beloved melody appears once more, but has now lost its noble and shy character; it is now no more than a vulgar dance tune, trivial and grotesque: it is she who is coming to the sabbath... Roar of delight at her arrival... She joins the diabolical orgy... The funeral knell tolls, burlesque parody of the Dies irae, the dance of the witches. The dance of the witches combined with the Dies irae Developed affections for works of Beethoven and Shakespeare In 1827, Berlioz saw Harriet Smithson for the first time, playing Ophelia in a production of Hamlet. Hopelessly smitten, he turned his entire life upside down to meet her. Frantic months turned into years when he suddenly heard rumors about Harriet and another man. Believing himself cured, he wrote a ‘fantastic’ symphony complete with a special theme, the idée fixe, to represent his former obsession. “The subject of this musical drama was none other than my love for Miss Smithson and the anguish and ‘bad dreams’ it had brought me.” In his own words: FIRST IMPRESSIONS :


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7. LOCATE AND LABEL THE FOLLOWING ON YOUR SCORE ANALYSIS HUNT 1. Opening motive : muted horns, timpani, and pizzicato low strings, forecasts syncopated rhythm of march (theme B) 2. Theme A—an energetic, downward minor scale, played by low strings, then violins (with bassoon obbligato): 3. Theme B—diabolical march tune, played, by brass and woodwinds 4. Beginning of the Developmental section 5. Theme B—in brass, accompanied by strings and woodwinds 6. Theme A—soft, with pizzicato strings. 7. Theme B—brass, with woodwinds added. 8. Theme A—soft, pizzicato strings, then loud in brass 9. Theme A—full orchestra statement in original form, then inverted (now an ascending scale). 10. Idée fixe (fixed idea) melody in clarinet (‘‘a last thought of love’’), marked ‘‘dolce assai e appassionato’’ (as sweetly and passionately as possible) 11. followed by loud chord that cuts off
melody (‘‘the fall of the blade) and Loud forceful chords close movement. TIME TO LISTEN Time to think "At least I have the modesty to admit that lack of modesty is one of my failings" 1. Which instrument plays an ostinato at the beginning? Timpani plays a rhythmic ostinato of rolling quavers. (The first step in creating the feel of a march.) 2. Identify the orchestration techniques used on the strings in bar one. Why would he have done this? The strings are being instructed to play pizzicato (or plucking). Berlioz would have done this to keep the volume down to piano against the very soft horns and low timpani. It also keeps the mood subdued in the opening. (Bowed strings would have been too bright.) 3. What aspects of the orchestration place it within the Romantic time frame? Give at least four answers. Use of percussion (timpani) to create mood. Program music was popular in the romantic period and instruments were chosen to reflect elements of the story. Lyrical, expressive and romantic melodic ideas. Increased size of the orchestra: 60-100 players Choice of instruments and blending of those instruments to create mood and tone colour. 4. Describe the initial sound of the first page and identify the mood created by this sound. Warm horns in a minor key with a short fragment of rising melody rumbling timpani on a quaver ostinato, soft pizzicato low strings (only cello and double bass) playing simple chords Very sparse (bare) orchestration Creates a sombre almost dull mood because of its soft, low, warm (but not bright), stripped back sound 5. What does theme A represent? The steady march of the man and his guards on their way to the scaffold. 6. How does the composer make sure that theme A doesn't drown out the counter melody at box 52? He instructs the string section to play pizzicato. Plucked strings are softer in sound than bowed strings and therefore won't overpower the soft staccato melody in the bassoon. He also strips the orchestration down to just bassoon and strings. 7. What does theme B represent (box 53) ? The excited and noisy crowd gathered to watch the execution. 8. How does the composer use keys to create different moods in this piece? Theme A - representing the man and his guards is in G minor establishing the sombre nature of what is about to happen him. Theme B - the crowd, is in B flat major, representing the excited and exuberant crowd looking forward to the entertainment provided by the execution. 9. How does the composer orchestrate theme B to reflect the excitement of a large crowd?
Thicker orchestration with a full complement of warm woodwinds and bright brass. Most instruments lines written with divisi (two parts per line) to make it even thicker. Strong middle register used for better tone and projection. Forte written on all parts. No strings - which would dilute the warm bright sound. 10. What effect does this have on the sound? It is loud, bright and warm as well being brilliant in it's tone colour. It is not shrill or muddy in sound due to the instruments chosen and the register used. A rich homophonic sound (every one playing the same rhythmic pattern with filled out harmonies.) 11. Section 56-59 builds to a climax. Identify five things that contribute to this climax. 1. More instruments are gradually added until everyone is playing. 2. The dynamic is gradually increased from mf to ff. 3. Theme A is turned around so that instead of descending it rises. It is replayed several times getting higher and higher. 4. A syncopated (tim-ka) rhythm is introduced that drives the rhythm onwards to a climax. 5. Strong unison passages are used 12. At section 59 a small fragment of melody is meant to represent the condemned man's beautiful lover. How is it orchestrated to reflect the melody's purpose? The melody is given to solo clarinet. Berlioz chooses a instrument know for it's warm mellow quality. He places the melody in the clarinet's high register to make it sound more mournful. The performer is told to play sweetly and passionately and given pianissimo as the dynamic. 13. What is an ophicleide? Invented in 1817, as an extension to the keyed bugle or Royal Kent bugle family, the ophicleide was the cornerstone of the brass section of the Romantic orchestra. 14. Why are there no tubas in this piece of music? Tubas did not exist till 1835 when the first tuba was invented by French instrument maker Jean Hilaire Asté. Up until then the bass section of the brass family was filled by ophicleides. Ideas you can steal from Berlioz 1. Represent different themes with different orchestral families. 2. Build climax by adding instruments gradually until everything is playing. 4. Make sections soft by orchestrating with just a few instruments and using techniques like pizzicato and muting. 3. Consider which register of an instrument will give a better, clearer, stronger or more brilliant sound based on what you want to portray. First great exponent of music Romanticism in France The Musical Picture of a head being chopped off!!
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