p.p1 are two iterations of this theme, the

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Last updated: September 14, 2019

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0px ‘Times New Roman’; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000}span.s1 {letter-spacing: 0.2px}span.Apple-tab-span {white-space:pre} In Connect’s “March to the Scaffold,” the fourth movement of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, the music follow a story of an artist experiencing a drug induced dream.

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The movement begins with the pizzicato block chords on the double basses, the sextuplets, which are six notes in the time of four, on timpani drums and the syncopation on horns. There is a large crescendo for dramatic effect, which is a characteristic feature of the Romantic era. The opening gives a more dark impression due to the dynamics being quiet, the tonality being minor, and the pitch being low.  There is a “descending” theme at 0:28 that is comprised of two octaves of the scale of G minor. It is a recurring theme in the movement, being heard in the background multiple times throughout the piece. There are two iterations of this theme, the first being low strings (cellos and basses).

In the beginning it’s monophonic, a melody that remains unaccompanied with parallel octaves.  The second version at 0:40 contains a opposing melody which is polyphonic on Bassoons. This is then succeeded by a version of higher pitch as violins take the theme at 0:54, this time in the key of Eb major. This is then followed by the theme in contradictory motion in G minor at 1:20, now with ascending violins. Another opposing melody is also featured in the motion. During this motion, the bassoon is played as eighth notes, staccato, in the tonality of G minor, with arpeggios being the texture and scales passage and sequence as the melody.

The strings are also being played as pizzicato.  There is then a “march theme” in Bb major, the relative major of G minor at 1:36, and this theme features trumpets. Dotted rhythm and syncopation is a strong feature during this theme. The descending theme is also being played along with the march theme. The melody in this section is carried by the trumpets which are mostly staccato, possessing the aforementioned syncopation and dotted rhythm. It contains loud dynamics and moves mostly by step except for two jumps of a third key of Bb. Within the next section at 2:53, the most striking feature is the rising sequences, which reuses material from the descending theme. This section also introduces the crash cymbals, emphasizing a large crescendo and diminuendo with particularly loud dynamics.

There are both sudden and gradual changes within this section. The unnerving atmosphere of the next part at 3:37 is influenced by the convulsive dotted rhythm throughout the section while it concludes on an imperfect or unfinished cadence. The opening, a reversal of the descending theme creates the idea of the raising of guillotine or rope.  A very short instance of the fixed idea of the symphony appears at 4:15, played monophonically on a solo clarinet as the artist sees his lover in his dream immediately before the execution. This is followed by a continual and emphasizing “fanfare” on brass instruments and a drum roll on a snare drum in the key of B major.

As for the programmatic element in the movement, the artist catches a glimpse at his lover for a short, fleeting second, perhaps a figment of his imagination, with the very concise portrayal of the fixed idea theme on a solo clarinet before the act of the execution is exemplified by a drum trill on the snare drum and a loud fanfare on brass in the key B major. The loud dynamics and crashes of the cymbal add to the exhilaration which end with a final cadence. In the NAXOS version, there are many similarities, but also a slight difference in playing style throughout. One instance is the introduction itself. The opening begins much quieter, building tension. This, in turn, leads to a much more noticeable and gradual crescendo. There are also many instances in which some instruments are played louder than in the Connect version. One of the main instances of this is the way the bassoon is played at 0:37, being louder and much more clear than the bassoons in the Connect version.

There is also an instance within the march theme section, where woodwind instruments are more easily heard. In addition to this, the pizzicato sections are much clearer as well. Overall, the quality of the NAXOS version seems to have a higher audio quality, which may be due to the quality of the microphone or the time period of which the recording took place (with the Connect version being released in 1969 and the NAXOS version being released in 2005). There are many instances where the NAXOS version has a much faster tempo than the Connect version, which makes this version seem much more upbeat.

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