Lecture 21

Hector Berlioz and the program symphony

The prevailing qualities of my music are passionate expressiveness, 
inner fire, rhythmic drive and unexpectedness.
—Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz and the program symphony

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) 

Until the 19th century, the drama in instrumental music was achieved mainly by musical means - by contrasting melodic ideas, by contrasting keys, by harmonic shifts, rhythmic contrasts, syncopation; with an increased interest in stage drama and the propensity of the romantic composer to dramatic effect, there emerged an interest in combining dramatic story lines with instrumental music. Hector Berlioz achieved this to a greater degree than anyone previously.

Topics covered:

  • the program symphony
  • Symphonie Fantastique
  • Berlioz as the quintessential romantic - an obsession
  • five drug-induced nightmares
  • movement 1
  • movements 2, 3 and 4
  • movement 5


  • telling a story in music without the benefit of words
  • getting inside Berlioz's head
  • by doing so, to understand a little more the romantic ideal
  • freudian self-analysis before its time


  • watch lecture 21 (in multiple parts for quicker download)
  • review previous chapters, as necessary
  • read textbook, Chapter 22
  • As you are reading your textbook, go through the Listening Exercises in textbook sequence, listening to the examples provided.
  •  regarding developing listening skills: you should be in the habit of developing your listening skills early in the game - the assignments will get more complex through the semester and you may find yourself unable to keep up. As simple as these early assignments may seem to some of you, they will help to keep you on the right track, and help you develop the skills required for a greater appreciation in listening to music, including the music that you listen to for your own enjoyment. Of course, those objectives are in total sync with the success you hope to have in this class. Remember that your ability to recognize the music on your CDs will be tested and will, of course, impact your grade.

Audio / Video lecture

  • click lecture segments below in sequence
  • presented in several segments to reduce download time
  • total lecture time: approx. one hour 15 minutes (all segments included)
  • can be downloaded for portable media players by right clicking each segment link and choosing save option. (note: older Macs and Mac notebooks with single-button mice: control-click)

Lecture 21.1 

Berlioz and the program symphony

Lecture 21.2 
Symphonie Fantastique
Lecture 21.3 
Symphonie Fantastique 2
Lecture 21.4 
Symphonie Fantastique


Berlioz's program to Symphonie Fantastique