Symphonie Fantastique: Opiate-induced Opus to Love’s Delirium
In 1830, French composer Hector Berlioz wrote one of the most over-the-top musical expressions of love ever penned by a Romantic composer, Symphonie Fantastique: Épisode de la vie d’un Artiste…en cinq parties (Fantastic Symphony: An Episode in the Life of an Artist, in Five Parts), Op. 14.
The Symphonie Fantastique takes subjectivity in music to new heights, exploring the inner emotions of a sensitive artist. So infatuated is Berlioz with his “beloved” that when he is rejected he goes into an opium-induced delirium, a nightmare that provides the most dramatic parts of the narrative.
Michael Tilson Thomas, who has made a fine recording of this piece with the San Francisco Symphony, talks about it in general terms in this video:
But here, in greater depth, is the story behind the Symphonie fantastique and insight into how it was turned into a work of the artist’s imagination:
One of the real tricks in life seems to be the ability to tell the difference between real love and infatuation. However, to leave you with a more positive impression of the piece as a whole, Simon Rattle conducts a more harmonious section of this work when the protagonist is still happy in his idea of love: