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Berlioz - Symphonie fantastique



Type of Spiritual Experience


Berlioz had a keen affection for literature, and many of his best compositions are inspired by literary works. For Symphonie fantastique, Berlioz was inspired in part by Thomas De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.[also on our site]

Berlioz began and finished composition of the Symphonie fantastique in 1830, a work which would bring Berlioz much fame and notoriety.  The five movement Symphonie fantastique, partly due to its fame, is considered by most to be Berlioz's most outstanding work, and the work had a considerable impact when first performed in 1830, 3 years after the death of Beethoven and 2 years after that of Schubert. It is famous for its innovations in the form of the programmatic symphony. The story behind this work relates to Berlioz himself and can be considered somewhat autobiographical.

He entered into a relationship with – and subsequently became engaged to – Marie Moke, despite the symphony being inspired by Berlioz's obsession with Harriet Smithson.

As his fourth cantata for submittal to the Prix de Rome neared completion, the July Revolution began. "I was finishing my cantata when the revolution broke out," he recorded in his Mémoires. "I dashed off the final pages of my orchestral score to the sound of stray bullets coming over the roofs and pattering on the wall outside my window. On the 29th I had finished, and was free to go out and roam about Paris till morning, pistol in hand."

A description of the experience

Hector Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique / Otto Klemperer

Published on Dec 26, 2013

00:00 I: Rêveries-Passions
16:20 II: Un bal
23:02 III: Scène aux champs
41:12 IV: Marche au supplice
46:18 V: Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat

Philharmonia Orchestra
Otto Klemperer
London, 1963

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



For the opening of Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of The Shining (1980) by Stephen King, composer Wendy Carlos re-interpreted the "Dies Irae" section of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique using a Moog Synthesizer