Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) and Paul Dukas (1865-1935) both wrote music that conjures up fantastical worlds. Join us as we explore the magic in their pieces Symphonie Fantastique and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
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Berlioz | Symphonie Fantastique
Berlioz wrote Symphonie Fantastique in 1830 and in his accompanying notes he described the story the music is based on. He was the first composer to describe events in music so explicitly and, with this piece, he invented the idea of the programmatic symphony. ‘Programmatic’ music is simply music that tells a story.
The piece is in five movements and this is what he wrote about them:
Daydreams - Passions
A young artist is hopelessly in love with a beautiful young actress. Whenever he thinks of her, he is haunted by a beautiful melody.
Amid the swirling waltz at a party, the artist sees his beloved through the crowds.
In the Meadows
In the countryside the artist listens to shepherds calling to each other on their pipes. The thought of his beloved comes into his head and he angrily pushes it away. A distant storm closes in.
March to the Scaffold
Sickened by unrequited love, the artist has a nightmare in which he imagines that he has killed his beloved and is executed by guillotine. As the blade comes down to chop off his head, he hears a fragment of her tune.
Sabbath Night’s Dream
Still dreaming, the artist has a vision of a witches' sabbath, where a terrifying troop of ghosts and sorcerers gather for his funeral. His beloved appears but she has turned into an ugly witch. She casts a spell and dances around her cauldron with a group of witches.
Now listen to some of the music and see if you can identify the music for the different characters.
- If you were a character in this story, which one would you be?
- What instrument would you choose to portray yourself?
Dukas | The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Dukas was a shy and serious man who threw away almost everything he wrote as he was worried it wasn’t good enough. Luckily for us, his tone poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, written in 1897, survived and became famous when it was used in Walt Disney’s film Fantasia in 1940.
This one-movement epic tells the familiar tale of a wizard’s assistant left alone with the task of mopping the workroom. Bored by the task, the apprentice casts a spell that makes the broom come to life to do the work for him. Things quickly get out of hand…
Listen to the music and see if you can hear when things start to go wrong for the wizard’s assistant!
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These resources were created in partnership with the Edinburgh International Festival as part of the Virgin Money Schools Concerts in 2019.