Symphonie Fantastique Analysis

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I will be looking at Hector Belioz’s Symphonie Fantastique’s Fifth movement known as “Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath” (Taruskin, 2005: 327). In this movement, Berlioz sees a horrific crowd of spirits, sorcerers, and monsters of every description, united for his funeral (Kamien, 2014: 296). Unfamiliar sounds, groans, shrieks of laughter, distant cries, which other cries seemed to answer and then through all of this the melody of his beloved is heard — the distorted Idée fixe melody. The presence of an idée fixe creates a motivic connection among all the movements resulting in what is called the cyclic form. The Idée fixe has lost its character of greatness and boldness and the tune is no more than danceable, ignoble, trivial and grotesque, Thus,…show more content…
There is a staccato chromatic descent repeated in the chords and then the strings leading to violins in piano with rapid ascent and crescendo. Cellos and basses are also in piano descending with long low tones introduced (Kamien, 2014: 297). A death bell of sonorous bells creates an amazing atmosphere to the next section of the movement. This melody is the medieval chant Dies irae which is traditionally 8 sung in the mass ceremony for the dead. The chant melody is soon shifted up to a higher register and is played by woodwinds and pizzicato 9 strings in a quick dance-like rhythm (Kamien, 2014: 297). Alterations with the violas in the beginning of the witches’ dance, followed by low tubas and bassoons in forte playing the Dies irae in long even notes. Higher horns and trumpets starts the beginning of the Dies Irae, but this time played faster (Kamien, 2014: 298). The woodwinds starts the section off with the Dies irae as a fast staccato…show more content…
The Low tubas and bassoons, continues playing the chant in long even notes, with bells accompanying, Higher horns and trumpets also continue playing the chant, but in a faster tempo and the high woodwinds continuing the chant in a fast dance tempo (Kamien, 2014: 298). Berlioz thus dared to parody a sacred chant by altering it into an insignificant melody, as he had previously done just a few bars earlier with the Idée fixe and therefore Berlioz conveys the insanity of a witches dance in a fugue-like section (Kamien, 2014: 297). There are violin syncopations, with piccolo and altered strings between the dynamics forte and piano to the repeated chords. The Witches’ dance is introduced in woodwinds and imitated with low strings and violins (Kamien, 2014: 298). The brass section of the orchestra plays rapid chords in fortissimo that are repeatedly answered by descending high woodwind section that descends to pizzicato in the cello and bass section of the orchestra. The varied witches’ dance is imitated by bassoons, horn punctuations that are followed by the low string section with a mezzo-piano dynamic and in the brass section the chant of Dies irae (Kamien, 2014: 299). The fugue theme of the witches’ dance is introduction by the lower strings and then imitated
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