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John Gibbons holds a Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Chicago. He teaches music appreciation classes at the Universality of Chicago’s Graham School and at Newberry Library. He also offers private piano lessons in the Chicago area.

Bonnie Gibbons is a web site developer and SEO with a background in classical music. She might be persuaded to teach a few cello lessons in the Chicago area.

Berlioz and his "Fantastique"; Revenge May Be Best Served Cold, But Hector Ordered a Side Dish of Panache With His Meal



Here’s a quiz:

What is the best way to exact revenge on a woman whose very existence torments you with pangs of jealous obsession?

a) Be a creep and put compromising pictures of her on the internet.

b) Pull an “O.J.”

c) Keep a stiff upper lip and show that you can handle yourself with dignity; show her who’s the adult.

d) Compose one of the greatest and most original symphonies in history.

Made your choice?  

If you happen to be Hector Berlioz, the answer you choose is “d”.  By the way, the option least likely to be chosen if you’re Berlioz is “C”, not withstanding that internet access was quite rare in 1830.

Here is a second quiz:

What is the best way to exact revenge on your professors, those pompous nincompoops who are so blind as to not recognize your genius, and instead choose to bore you with dull admonitions about your faulty counterpoint?

a) Slash the tires of their cars in the teacher’s lot.

b) Scrawl scatological insults on their blackboards.

c) Vow to work harder to improve your counterpoint, and subsequently become recognized as a greater contrapuntal expert than they are.

d) Write one of the greatest and most original symphonies in history, and portray your profs as slobbering demons in Hell dancing orgasmically to the notes of their beloved counterpoint. 

Don’t give up — you can do it! Take a deep breath… 

If you happen to be “You Know Who”, the answer again is “d”.  And by the way, the least likely option to be exercised if you are in the habit of putting “H.B.” monograms on your pistol cases is “c”, not withstanding the fact that very few professors of music at the Paris Conservatory in the 1820s drove their cars to work.

Berlioz: Symphonie
Excerpts from Lélio

“The Tilson Thomas
Symphonie fantastique
is the
cream of a very, very good crop
of recordings.” (John Gibbons)

It is also a potentially tenable notion that Berlioz was turning Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony upside down in a similar vein to that in which he turned Beethoven’s Ninth upside down in Harold en Italie; like the Big Man’s 5th, the Fantastique travels from c minor to C major, ends in cathartic triumph (albeit for the ghouls, just as it was the brigand’s triumph in “Harold”), has a scherzo that is yoked to the finale, even to the point of representing a transitional state emerging into the finale, as in Beethoven’s 5th, and has passages (a descending minor passage in the low strings in the “March to the Scaffold”, and an optimistic C major scaler horn call figure in the Witch’s Sabbath) that are suspiciously  similar to passages in the Beethoven work, at equivalent structural junctures.  

Extra Credit!

Here’s a third little quiz. Which photo below is of Hector Berlioz — and which one is of Jefferson Davis?

 berlioz.jpg   davis.jpg

Hope you earned your motarboard!

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