This complete performance of Symphonie fantastique comprised the second half of the CSO’s Berlioz Beyond the Score production (viewable here).

The 27-year-old Hector Berlioz composed Symphonie fantastique both to explore German romanticism and to give his hometown of Paris a symphony of its own, something not yet native to this city of operas and ballets. Berlioz’s understanding of the symphony, however, was rooted in the operatic overture, perhaps why his program notes are presented “as the spoken text of an opera,” and certainly why Symphonie fantastique became one of the most well-known pieces of program music in the repertoire. A purely musical melodrama, Symphonie fantastique describes the life of an artist, replete with unrequited love, witches, guillotines and colorful, opium-induced hallucinations.

Recorded in high definition at Orchestra Hall in December 2013.

Stéphane Denève, conductor

Learn more about Berlioz and Symphonie fantastique by watching the CSO’s theatrical Beyond the Score production.