"What We're Listening To:" Hector Berlioz, "Symphonie Fantastique"- Mvt. 5 "Dream of a Witches' Sabbath"

"What We're Listening To" - Hector BerliozHector Berlioz (1803-1869) was a French composer of the Romantic era. He wrote many of his most popular works during 1830 and 1847. He was most famous for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morte (Requiem) and for his Treatis on Instrumentation.

Berlioz played an integral part in influencing the development of Romaticism as well Romantic composers Wagner, Rimsky-Korsakov, Liszt, Strauss and Mahler. Several of Berlioz’s works required large orchestral forces of up to one thousand musicians.

Symphonie Fantastique was premiered at the Paris Conservatory in December 1830. Berlioz wrote his own program notes which were to be accompanied with each of the five movements in the piece. It is the story of a musician who poisons himself with opium in a fit of despair over his beloved.  Instead of being killed by the opium, he falls into a deep sleep accompanied by wild dreams and visions which are translated into musical images.  

In Movement no. 5 of the Symphonie entitled: “Dream of a Witches' Sabbath,” Berlioz uses strange and unconventional sounds in the string and wind sections to conjure up visions of monsters, ghosts and sorcerers.

Included below is a performance of Hector Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" - Mvt. 5 "Dream of a Witches' Sabbath" with Leonard Bernstein conducting the "Orchestre National de France"



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