Guest Blogger Rebecca Safeer: Hector Berlioz – Symphonie Fantastique

22 Dec

I love having guest bloggers to provide a different style, a different view on the recordings we are exploring.  This week I am pleased to introduce Rebecca Safeer, who stopped by my office every day during the summer to hear what I was listening to that day . . .

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My first reaction to this piece was, “Wow, this is long.”  And it is.  The piece is a little under 50 minutes long.  And that is how many times I probably listened to it.  

Over the past two months the count on my iTunes is at 45.  And after listening to a piece that much I can tell you that it is an amazing piece of music.  At first I didn’t like how long the piece was but I continued to listen to it in its entirety until I appreciated every part of it.   

Symphonie Fantastique is a piece of music from the Romantic period.  During the Romantic period (from about 1800 to about 1910) music was written with an emphasis on color.  The color that a piece of music shows is based on its instrumentation and the range at which those instruments are used.  During this time there was also the discovery of writing what is called program music.  This means that instead of writing a piece of music to show off all you can do with an orchestra or an ensemble, you wrote music based on a story or a theme.   

Berlioz does both of those things perfectly with his Symphonie Fantastique.  You can tell right from the beginning that the score is supposed to be accompanied by some type of story.  Berlioz envisioned a tale of an artist.  And each of the five movements are meant to be the development of this theme and to show various episodes in the life of the artist. 

There are many different sounds in this piece.  There are parts in which it feels like you are at a ballet and you could be floating on a cloud whilst listening to this peaceful music.  Then there are sections with a call and response between the higher instruments and the lower instruments.  However the best part about this piece is how the emotions of the artist that Berlioz is trying to convey come through by listening to the arrangement of the score.  You can feel the pain and suffering through the excitement build up by the horns and the timpani.  You can hear the love and freedom of the waltz theme when you hear the harmonies between the violins.  You can hear the triumph with the beautiful sound of the french horn. 

I absolutely love this piece.  Thanks to Avri for letting me be a guest blogger.  I really enjoyed listening to and learning about this recording.

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Rebecca studied Spanish Language and Literature at Stony Brook University.  She has studied music since 4th grade and graduated with a music minor.   

While studying in Barcelona, Spain she kept a blog which can be read here

Rebecca teaches middle school science and is proud to see many of her students’ experiments integrate science and music.

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