Background Information: Biography and Inspiration.
- Berlioz wrote his early masterpiece, the Symphonie Fantastique, in 1830.
- In 1834, he composed Harold in Italy.
- He died in Paris in 1869.
- It was inspired by Byron's poem 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage'. The word 'childe' was referring to a candidate for knighthood.
- The poem describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man looking for distractions in foreign lands.
- Berlioz does not tell the story of Harold in the music, but captures the mood of the character.
Background Information: Concerto or Symphony? The
Concerto or Symphony?
- A concerto is a composition with a solo part that is usually virtuosic, and accompanied by orchestra.
- However, in Harold in Italy, the solo viola part is non virtuosic.
- It was written for Paganini, the leading viola virtuoso at the time, but he refused to perform the piece because he felt it was too simplistic.
- The work is actually more of a symphony than a concerto.
- This is the third of four movements, and Berlioz writes a Serenade instead of the Beethovenian Scherzo for his third movement.
- The Serenade is a song by a mountaineer in honour of his mistress.
- The influence of folk music from the mountains is evident in different parts, for instance, the use of drones, the modal inflections, and the saltarello rhythms.
- The theme is announced in the first movement, and does not go through any transformations, but returns with different orchestral textures.
Performing Forces and their Handling.
- Berlioz uses an unusual combination of instruments from the Romantic era symphony orchestra in this movement, such as the piccolo, cor anglais, harp, and four horns; he does not use trumpets, cornets, trombones, or percussion.
- The violas are divided at the opening so that the lower part can play open string drones whilst the upper part plays melodic material.
- The piccolo and oboe represent pifferi, rustic oboes.
- At the Allegretto, the violins and cello play pizzicato, with double stopping in the second violin. This creates the sound of plucked instrumental accompaniment, like guitar style, in the serenade.
- The clarinet uses a low chalumeaux register, and broken chord figures in bar 48.
- At bar 53, all the strings return to playing 'arco'.
- For the final section of the piece, the strings play with mutes.
- Also in the final section, the harp plays harmonics, shown by circles above.
- Technical demands for viola are relatively simple, the octave passages from bar 99 being the most demanding part.
- The texture is predominantly melody dominated homophony.
- There are variations in the layout - for example, the opening of the piece starts with a drone (double pedal) on C and G in the second oboe, clarinets, and bassoon. The violas play the same notes but with a different rhythmic figure.
- The main melodic material is played in octaves by the piccolo and first oboe (the piccolo sounds an octave higher than written).
- A counter melody is played by the first violas in the opening also, and the bassoon maintains a pedal C throughout this section.
- At the Allegretto, in bar 32, the strings play a homophonic accompaniment to the cor anglais solo serenade theme. The violins and cellos play pizzicato, while the violas play a broken chord figure.
- At bar 53, the strings play in octaves a chromatic counter melody, against the woodwind, while a third part appears in the clarinet and horn.
- At bar 60, the two horns in C play a version of the Serenade theme in thirds and sixths.
- The idée fixe in long notes in the viola part, provides an additional strand of music from bar 65.
- In bars 79 to 80, there is a brief dialogue between the cor anglais and oboe, clarinet, flute and piccolo, and bassoons, playing in octaves.
- In bars 202 to 206, there is a monophonic statement of the Serenade theme in the solo viola part.
- The movement replaces the traditional scherzo movement in a standard symphony.
- Berlioz's movement has a broad ABA structure, similar to the Scherzo movement, but with the addition of a coda which combines elements of both sections.
- Bars 1-31 is Section A, Allegro assai. This comprises of a drone, saltarello rhythms, and a 'pifferi' melody in C major.
- Bars 32-135 is Section B, Allegretto. This is the Serenade, and starts with the melody in irregular phrase lengths, then plays the idea fixe superimposed on Serenade material, increasing the rhythmic elaboration through triplets and semiquavers. At bar 100, the Serenade theme returns in D minor. At bar 122, the last references to the Serenade theme in C major are made.
- Bars 136-165 is the return of Section A, an exact repetition.
- Bars 166-208 is the extended coda, Allegretto. It is a combination of various elements: the saltarello rhythms in the violas, a fragmented version of the Serenade theme also in the violas, the idee fixe is played in the flute and double by harp harmonics.
- The overall tonality is C major.
- There are clearly defined cadences throughout the movement, and there is limited modulation, reflecting the folk character of the piece.
- The tonality of the A section is defined by the pedal C throughout.
- There are modal inflections in section A (the B flat, the flattened seventh).
- The Serenade theme is in C major.
- The strongest modulation occurs when the Serenade theme returns in bar 100, in D minor, in the horns.
- Berlioz passes through A minor and A major at the start of the B section.
- The music remains in C major from the return of the A section to the end.
- The harmonic language is essentially diatonic throughout with some chromaticism, mostly through diminished chords.
- The harmony of the A section is build on the tonic pedal C, with some references to other chords, such as G7 in bar 19, and F in bar 14.
- In the B section, there is an imperfect cadence in A minor, with a 4-3 suspension, in bars 39-40.
- There is more chromaticism in the second half of the B section, for example in the change from A minor to A major.
The A section is based on a folk like melody, characterised by:
- Conjunct movement.
- Range of a ninth, with no interval greater than a third within phrases.
- Grace notes colour the repeated G notes.
- The melody is largely centred around the note E.
- The flattened 7th, B flat, can be regarded as a modal inflection.
- One bar cells, leading to irregular phrasing.
- Some inversion of basic material.
The B section melody is in the cor anglais (which sounds a fifth below written pitch), and includes an arpeggio figure on C major chord with added auxiliary note A. This is followed by a falling third reminiscent of the idee fixe, which opens with a falling third and falling sixth.
- In the Coda, the idee fixe is heard complete in C major in the flute and harp, in long notes.
- The serenade theme is fragmented.
- The saltarello theme is also fragmented.
Rhythm and Metre.
- The metre throughout is compound duple 6/8.
- The tempo of the A section is double that of the B section.
- The melodic ideals of the pifferi have marked accents on the second beat of the bar.
- The Serenade theme explores the idea of mixing 3/4 time and 6/8 time, evident in the third bar of the melody where two quavers are followed by a minim.
- In bar 132, the theme is ornamented by semiquavers.
- Semiquavers are also used by the clarinet in its arpeggiated accompaniment.
- Triplet semiquavers are also used.
- There is a hint of rhythmic augmentation in bar 192, where the final motif is changed from semiquavers to quavers to complete the phrase.