Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Music Fueled By Desire

“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.”


Symphonie fantastique

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Michael Tilson Thomas

Was Hector Berlioz writing music to get over his obsession with his distant love, Harriet Smithson?

Was this symphony his way of saying goodbye, or even seeking revenge?
Or was it instead his impassioned valentine to a woman he
could not forget?

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.

Examine his musical portraits of Harriet to find out:

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