Dream of a Witches' Sabbath from "Symphonie Fantastique"

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Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz (trans. R Mark Rogers)

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General Info

Year: 1830/1995
Duration: c. 11:00
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Southern Music
Cost: Score and Parts - $165.60   |   Score Only - $20.00

For further availability information, see Discussion tab, above.


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Berlioz completed the Symphonie Fantastique in 1830, when he was 26 years old. A programmatic and vaguely autobiographical work, the symphony grew out of an intense infatuation with a French actress Berlioz had met years before. Berlioz wrote this description of the symphony, “A young musician poisons himself with opium in a fit of amorous despair. Too weak to result in death, the opium plunges him into a heavy sleep accompanied by strange visions. The fifth and final movement finds the young man present at a witches’ revel assembled for his funeral amid strange sounds and shrill laughter. He hears the theme of his beloved, but it has become a vulgar and grotesque dance tune. She joins in the debauchery. Bells toll for the dead. A burlesque parody of the Dies Irae is heard as part of the witches’ blasphemous and demonic dance.

- Program Note from Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music

Symphonie fantastique: Épisode de la vie d'un artiste ... en cinq parties (Fantastical Symphony: An Episode in the Life of an Artist, in Five Parts) Op. 14, is a program symphony written by the French composer Hector Berlioz in 1830. It is an important piece of the early Romantic period. The first performance was at the Paris Conservatoire on 5 December 1830.

Leonard Bernstein described the symphony as the first musical expedition into psychedelia because of its hallucinatory and dream-like nature, and because history suggests Berlioz composed at least a portion of it under the influence of opium. According to Bernstein, "Berlioz tells it like it is. You take a trip, you wind up screaming at your own funeral."

Dream of a Witches' Sabbath is the fifth movement of the symphony, entitle in French Songe d'une nuit du sabbat. Quoting Berlioz:

He sees himself at a witches' sabbath, in the midst of a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, outbursts of laughter; distant shouts which seem to be answered by more shouts. The beloved melody appears once more, but has now lost its noble and shy character; it is now no more than a vulgar dance tune, trivial and grotesque: it is she who is coming to the sabbath ... Roar of delight at her arrival ... She joins the diabolical orgy ... The funeral knell tolls, burlesque parody of the Dies irae, the dance of the witches. The dance of the witches combined with the Dies irae.

- Program Note from Wikipedia

Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.

State Ratings

  • Louisiana: V


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Heart of Texas (San Antonio) Concert Band (R. Mark Rogers, conductor) - 20 November 2022
  • Callanwolde Concert Band (Atlanta, Ga.) (Raymond Handfield, conductor) - 26 October 2014
  • Plano (Tex.) East Wind Ensemble - 23 May 2013

Works for Winds by This Composer