Franz Liszt

Symphonie fantastique, transcription for piano, S. 470 (LW A16) (after Berlioz)

    Description by Aaron Rabushka

    The third movement, Scene aux Champs ("Scene in the Fields"), begins as a pastoral idyll with a dialogue of cowherds. When the beloved woman shows up her effect is quite disturbing as the idée fixe is elaborately and passionately transformed in both ends of the pitch spectrum. Pastoral calm eventually does return (although the music still feels some disturbance of the woman's appearance), and eventually the opening cow call comes back. This time the cowherd is answered not by another cowherd, but only by thunder in the distance.

    The fourth movement is entitled Marche au Supplice ("March to the Scaffold"). The protagonist dreams that he has murdered his beloved and that he is condemned to hang for it. He marches to his execution to a tune rich with military pomp. The idee fixe doesn't show up until near the end, when the protagonist sees a vision of his beloved just before he is about to die.

    The final movement, Songe d'une Nuit de Sabbat ("Dream of a Witches' Sabbath"), finds the protagonist condemned to Hell. After an eerie beginning he finds himself tortured by an insatiable crowd of nasty witches, among whom his beloved takes her place as her theme is transformed into a grotesque caricature of itself. Some chiming notes introduce some imposing mock-solemnity, leading to the appearance of Dies Irae, a Catholic plainchant dealing with the Last Judgment. This is transformed and integrated into the texture along with Berlioz's own witches' sabbath theme amid the hysterical elan of this ghastly evocation. The ending takes us out in with a relentlessly pounding over-the-top climax.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Rêveries, Passions (Largo; Allegro agitato appassionato assai)
    2. Un bal (Valse: Allegro non troppo)
    3. Scène aux champs (Adagio)
    4. Marche dus supplice (Allegretto non troppo)
    5. Songe d'une nuit du sabbat (Larghetto; Allegro)

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2013
    Oxingale Records
    OX 2020
    2011
    IBA [Idil Biret Archives]
    857128485
    2011
    Decca
    2010
    Decca
    4764176
    2008
    Decca
    4765684
    2001
    Musicians Showcase
    1058
    1995
    Arcobaleno
    9322
    1994
    Naxos
    550725
    1991
    Hyperion
    66433