19th Century composer Hector Berlioz (eck-tor bare-lee-ohz) wrote Symphonie Fantastique, op 14 in 1830. I listened to it tonight, performed by the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. It was fantastic! Loved every minute of it, from the musician character who poisons himself with opium, and falls into nightmares, as represented in music anyway, to the March to the Scaffold, after the musician kills the object of his infatuation, to the dream of a witches’ sabbath that takes place at the end. We were all on our feet in a moment at the end. It is a very interesting and stirring piece, and it was wonderfully performed.
Berlioz had two infatuations in his life that inspired the symphony. He wrote of the first:
“The moment I set eyes on her I felt an electric shock; in fact, I fell in love with her, desperately, hopelessly. I had no wishes, no hopes, I had no idea what was the matter with me, but I suffered acutely and spent my nights in sleepless anguish.”
I can appreciate that. Of his second infatuation, he said:
“No words can describe what I suffered; even Shakespeare has never painted the horrible gnawing at my heart, the sense of utter desolation and the worthlessness of life, the torture of one’s throbbing pulse, and the wild confusion of mind. I stopped composing; my mind became paralyzed as my passion grew. I could only — suffer.”
I couldn’t have said that better. I only wish I were a composer so I could have set my silent suffering into music, and made someone to understand what it feels like.
The most interesting aspect of Berlioz’s life is that he actually obtained his second object of desire. The day after the premier of Symphonie Fantastique in Paris, he meets her, and they marry several months later. THIS IS THE BEST PART: He found her to be a jealous nag and a hopeless alcoholic. They separated 14 years later.
Ah, unrequited love: best savored alone. Reality is rarely so like the dream.