Berlioz: Romeo et Juliette (Cambridge Music Handbooks)
Berlioz's 'dramatic symphony' Roméo et Juliette is regarded by many as his finest work; it is certainly among the most original. It is played less often than his earlier symphonies, because it requires solo voices and chorus; yet at its heart is some of the most inspired orchestral music of the nineteenth century. This book summarises the complex genesis of the work before examining the music closely and always with a view to understanding its dramatic implications. The early and later critical reception is quoted and discussed and Julian Rushton concludes by suggesting a way of hearing the work which recognises the value of its mixed genre. The complete libretto is provided in both English and French.
Convoi is the only movement in Romeo et Juliette that may be understood as a complete sonata form, but its textural procedures, notably ostinato and fugue, belong to other generic types. And the major divisions of the sonata do not coincide with those features of the musical topography most likely to affect a listener. The sonata is the type with little or no development (see Table 6.2). Its thematic-tonal outline is clear, but a certain awkwardness resides in the brevity of the secondary
statements in the form of aria and chorus; despite being performed in a concert-hall rather than a theatre, the finale lacked the novelty value, or risk, of the symphonic sections. Even the most grudging critics agreed on the success of No. 2; and it seems clear that the scherzo also pleased the public, although some critics shunned it as merely bizarre. Not surprisingly this movement took the brunt of comments, among the cliches of Berlioz criticism, concerning concentration on the fantastique
was written in this way and not another; but it cannot make it speak to us as music. If the music of the Scene d'amour strikes us as dramatic, it is through a metaphor. Musical eloquence arises from such factors as the exchange of melody between instruments in high and low registers and between lyrical and declamatory styles; the movement of harmony away from and back to points of reference, nearly all tonic; and the analogy to the development of Shakespeare's scene which lies in richness or
- Listen! — Her sisters, even now, Appearing white in the twilight, Muttering funeral chants, Are on their way to bury the dead young girl In her cold mausoleum in holy ground. Romeo que personne encore Dans Pexil n'a pu prevenir, Croit morte celle qu'il adore; Rien ne peut plus le retenir: II vole a Verone, il penetre Dans le sombre tombeau qui devora son coeur, Et, sur le sein glace dont vivait tout son etre, II boit la mortelle liqueur! . . . Juliette s'eveille! Elle parle! . . . o merveille!
the composition of Le roi Lear. Harold en Italie, Benvenuto Cellini, Romeo, and Beatrice et Benedict all have Italian settings; Les Troyens, arguably, is also nostalgic for Italy. 27 Memoires, Chapter 49. Besides Harold the concert included Le jeune Pdtre breton and the Symphonie fantastique, and works by Gluck and Donizetti (see Holoman, Berlioz, p. 615). 28 The only source for this letter is the Memoires, Chapter 49. While there is no doubt that Berlioz received the money, it was rumoured that