More Halloween Music :: Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz

Another bone chilling work of classical music is Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique. Written in 1830, Berlioz was telling the story of the life of a troubled artist. The last movement is describing a “witch’s sabbath” taking place at the artist’s own funeral. 

This is very eery music and there are two things that will help us better understand what we are listening to.

First, Berlioz uses the Dies Irae melody. This is a plainchant melody from the middle ages that was included in certain Masses in church. Dies Irae means “Day of Wrath.” The melody was well known and appears dozens of times and in a variety of ways in classical music. 

Some other examples of this melody are found in:

Second, Berlioz uses unique special effects. At one point in the Witch’s Sabbath, the violin part is told to play “Con Legno” which means to play with the wood of the bow. At this point the wood of the bow is struck against the string creating an effect that sounds like dry bones rattling against each other.

Keep enjoying classical music. Here are links to Symphonie Fantastique.