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Hector Berlioz - "Grande symphonie funebre et triomphale"

June 20, 2010

Berlioz's Grande symphonie funebre et triomphale is a work that was "rediscovered" and given a modern adaptation by Richard Franko Goldman. Since that time, the piece has established itself as a staple of the modern wind band repertoire. Below is information on the piece from Wikipedia and a link to a Time magazine article on the work as a "forgotten" piece of music. The piece, rightfully so, draws many comparisons to Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum elsewhere on the UMWO Blog and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

 

Time magazine article on Grande symphonie funebre et triomphale

 

Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale (English: Grand Funeral and Triumphal Symphony), Op. 15, is the fourth and last symphony by the French composer Hector Berlioz, first performed on 28 July 1840 in Paris. The symphony was a commission by the French government which wanted to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the July Revolution which had brought Louis-Philippe to power, by erecting the July Column in the place de la Bastille, Paris. Berlioz had little sympathy for the régime, but he accepted the opportunity to write the work which brought him a payment of 10,000 francs. It allowed him to return to the style of the open-air music festivities of the French Revolution in the 1790s and thus, unlike his other symphonic works, shows little of the influence of Beethoven. In fact, it is believed that much of the work is based on material which had been composed long before, such as the unperformed Fête musicale funèbre of 1835.

 

The symphony was originally scored for a wind band of 200 players who were to accompany the procession which moved the coffins of those who had died fighting in the 1830 revolution for reburial beneath a memorial column which had been set up on the site of the Bastille. On the actual day of the parade, little of the music could be heard over the cheering crowds who lined the way. Nevertheless, the work had been such a success at the dress rehearsal that it was given two more performances in August which sealed its reputation as one of the composer's most popular works during his lifetime. Berlioz revised the score in 1842, adding strings and a final chorus to words by Antony Deschamps.

 

The symphony is in three movements (the last two are linked together):

 

Marche funèbre (Funeral march)

Oraison funèbre (Funeral oration)

Apothéose (Apotheosis) A triumphal march in B flat major

 

Berlioz's handling of wind instruments was particularly admired by Richard Wagner. Berlioz reused an aria from Act III of his abandoned opera Les francs-juges, replacing the voice part with a trombone.

 

Hector Berlioz, Grande Symphonie funebre et triomphale, Op. 15.
Central Military Band of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Valery Khalilov, conductor

 

 

 

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