The fourth movement contains possibly the most famous excerpt from the entire symphony. Amidst a background of a hesitant march, signifying the final trek to the guillotine, the idée fixe returns yet again in the clarinet part. It is now in the key of G, which is the same distance away (a fifth up rather than a fifth down) from the home key of C. This represents the last thought going through the artist’s mind before his execution, and the artist’s head can be seen and heard bouncing down the scaffold in the falling pizzicato strings. See Figure 4 on the next page.
In the fifth movement, the idée fixe returns, signifying the beloved’s taunts of the artist, now in hell ...view middle of the document...
It has no equal among the instruments for reviving images and sentiments of the past if the composer intends to touch the hidden chords of tender memories”. Berlioz continues to explain:
In the Adagio of one of my symphonies the English horn repeats the phrases of the oboe in the lower octave, like the voice of a youth replying to a girl in a pastoral dialogue. Then, at the end of the piece, it reiterates fragments of these phrases with a hollow accompaniment of four kettledrums, while the rest of the orchestra remains silent. The mood of absence and oblivion, of sorrowful loneliness, which arises in the soul of many a listener at the recurrence of this melancholy tune, would be far less poignant if it were played by another instrument.
He employed harps because he felt nothing else could give him the beautiful sound, and wrote that the effect was multiplied by using more than one. He explains that the Eb clarinet was more strident and shrill than the lower pitched clarinets, thus making it more suitable for the taunting melody of the beloved in Figure 5. Finally, he uses pairs of ophicleides in the last two movements, because it was the ‘ugliest noise’ Berlioz could think of. Berlioz writes in his Treatise:
Nothing is more clumsy – I could almost say, more monstrous – nothing less appropriate in combination with the rest of the orchestra than those more or less rapid passages played as solos in the medium range of the ophicleides in certain modern operas. They are like an escaped bull jumping around in a drawing room.
He also was interested in stretching the demands on each instrument to what the instruments were capable of instead of what the particular musicians thought the capabilities were. Believing that the musicians did not know the potential of their own instruments, he explored the further reaches of their tessitura. He also experimented with...