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Romantic Program Music
©2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
1
•Depicts or portrays nonmusical
ideas: incidents, images, objects,
nature
•Romantic composers planned the
music around the program
•Story told through recording insert
or concert program
•Hector Berlioz: early Romantic
program music composer
©2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
2
Born 1803
1830
1832
1833
•Grew up in
•Won the Prix •Composition •Married
small French
de Rome,
performed in Smithson
town
composition
Paris with
prize
offered
Smithson in
•Father sent
at
the
Paris
audience
him to medical
Conservatory
school in Paris
•Quit medicine •Wrote
Symphonie
to become a
fantastique for
composer
Harriet
Smithson
1843
1852
1869
•Had difficulty •Wrote Treatise •Became
•Died at age 65
getting works on
librarian of
Instrumentation Paris
performed
Conservatory
•Wrote musical and
Orchestration
criticism to
support family
•Wrote
autobiography
•Conducted
works
throughout
Europe
•Overlooked
for various
honors and
conducting
posts
•Recognized as
gifted
orchestrator
©2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
3
“An Episode in the Life of an Artist”
Harriet Smithson
•Program Symphony in 5 movements
•Based on personal experience of meeting and falling
in love with Harriet Smithson
•Young musician poisons himself with opium in
lovesick despair
• Narcotic too weak to kill him, plunges into deep
slumber with strange visions
• Sensations, emotions, and memories are transformed
into musical thoughts and images
• Loved one becomes a melody, an idée fixe (fixed idea)
•The idée fixe occurs in each movement similar to the
motive that unifies Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
•Berlioz changes the idée fixe in each movement, a
technique known as thematic transformation
•Berlioz wrote for a larger orchestra than normal to
portray multiple images and emotions
©2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
4
Loved one appears
again (idée fixe) and
he fears she might
be deceiving him
Dreams he has
killed his beloved
Condemned to
death and led to
scaffold
Idée fixe appears
again like a last
thought of love
©2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Part V: Dream of a Witches’
Sabbath
Loved one again
represented by idée
fixe
Hears two
shepherds piping
melodies to each
other across field
Part IV: March to the Scaffold
Movement ends
with tenderness and
religious
consolation
Encounters loved
one at a dance
Part III: Scene in the Country
Idée fixe represents
first meeting
Part II: A Ball
Part I: Reveries, Passions
Recalls soul
sickness, passion,
depression before
meeting beloved
Sees himself at
Sabbath amid
ghosts, sorcerers,
monsters for his
funeral
Beloved appears
again, but idée fixe
has changed
Bells toll and
medieval chant is
played, “Dies irae”
5
Roméo et Juliette (dramatic
symphony) (1839)
• King Lear Overture (1831)
• Waverly Overture (ca. 1827)
• Rob Roy Overture (1831)
• Harold en Italie (1834)
•
©2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
6
Program symphony
Larghetto-allegro
No major sections repeat
Orchestra
Sextuple meter
Listening excerpt
from CD 1,
tracks 38-40,
p. 188
The artist and his love are dead in this movement
Listen to the eerie opening with dissonance:
Listen to the transformed idée fixe and bells tolling
for the dead:
Listen to the “Dies irae” (“Day of Wrath”) chant
used in this movement:
©2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
7
Franz Liszt
1811-1886
• Developed symphonic poem, or tone poem
•Ignored tradition of organizing symphonies
in movements
Richard Strauss
1864-1949
• Bulk of work written in nineteenth
century
• Avoided sonata form in first movements
•Also sprach Zarathustra –
philosophic program
•Unified works with single theme or melody
• Till Eulenspiegels lustig Streiche
• Les Préludes (1853) single movement work
based on poem
•(Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks) –
comic program
•Composed twelve symphonic poems
•Don Quixote – comic program
©2009, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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