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March to the Scaffold (arr Custer)

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Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz (trans. Calvin Custer)

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Subtitle: From Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14

General Info

Year: 1830 / 1996
Duration: c. 3:50
Difficulty: III (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Hal Leonard
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $70.00   |   Score Only (print) - $7.50


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II
Trombone I-II
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III

(percussion detail desired)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Berlioz has provided his own notes about Symphonie Fantastique. He writes,

The composer’s intention has been to develop various episodes in the life of an artist, insofar as they lend themselves to musical treatment. As the work cannot rely on the assistance of speech, the plan of the instrumental drama needs to be set out in advance. The following program must therefore be considered as the spoken text of an opera, which serves to introduce musical movements and to motivate their character and expression.

In the first three movements, the artist, a young vibrant musician, in his mind falls desperately in love with a woman who possesses all the charms of the ideal person, and is afflicted by a desperate lovesickness of spirit. In the artist’s mind, the image of his beloved is always presented with the idée fixe, which presents itself many times, including in the clarinet at the end of the March to the Scaffold. His passion presents itself early in the first movement, and in the second movement, the artist imagines himself in diverse aspects of life: at a ball, in peaceful contemplation of nature, all while the image of his beloved haunts him. The third movement is a pastoral scene in the fields, with English horn and oboe providing a haunting dialogue, and finally distant thunder in the timpani.

Berlioz writes about the March to the Scaffold,

Convinced that his love is unappreciated, the artist poisons himself with opium. The dose of narcotic, while too weak to cause his death, plunges him into a heavy sleep accompanied by the strangest of visions. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he is condemned, led to the scaffold and is witnessing his own execution. As he cries for forgiveness, the effects of the narcotic set in. He wants to hide but he cannot, so he watches as an onlooker as he dies. The procession advances to the sound of a march that is sometimes somber and wild, and sometimes brilliant and solemn, in which a dull sound of heavy footsteps follows without transition the loudest outbursts. At the end of the march, the first four bars of the idée fixe reappear like a final thought of love interrupted by the fatal blow when his head bounced down the steps.

- Program note by The Woodlands High School Wind Ensemble concert program, 21 December 2012

Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.

Media Links

State Ratings

  • Arkansas: IV
  • California: SCSBOA Band Music List Grade II
  • Tennessee: III


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Works for Winds by This Composer


None discovered thus far.