I have loved Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique ever since I was a teenager. It’s one of the few major orchestral works I discovered on my own rather than being assigned it, and I can still remember listening to it over and over on my Sony Discman(!) and being deeply moved by the intensity of the emotion and the feverish, eerie quality of the sound.
I remember feeling this way about certain books, too, but in nearly every case I have renounced my adoration of these. Or at least, my grownup self knows to cringe when the prose gets too purple and the melodrama too overwrought. I understand why I read and reread these stories of tragedy and ill-fated love and heroism, but I can’t do it without embarrassment now.
Somehow, though, Symphonie Fantastique has escaped this fate. I still love it, though I hear the melodrama for what it is: a transparent play for our emotions. I forgive it in spite of its too-busy orchestrations and difficult ensemble issues. I enjoy that one overplayed tune even though it sticks in my head terribly.
In other words, I’ve been looking forward to this week in the Northwest Indiana Symphony. I love the piece, I’m happy to perform it in the lovely Bethel Church in Merrillville, and I’m eager to present it to a full and enthusiastic house Friday night. Come out and join us!