Banner: The symphonic suite Cantabile

Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: Symphonie Fantastique: the harp and the bells.

  1. #1
    Senior Member techniquest's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Wessex, UK
    Posts
    1,111
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Symphonie Fantastique: the harp and the bells.

    I was listening to Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique yesterday and got to wondering - is this the first symphony in which the harp is used?
    Also, back in the day when it was first performed, would tubular bells have been used in the last movement, or real bells? Thanks, guys.
    There may come a time when Youtube won't let us do this...

  2. #2
    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Kampen (NL)
    Posts
    11,467
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by techniquest View Post
    I was listening to Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique yesterday and got to wondering - is this the first symphony in which the harp is used?
    Wikipedia says 'yes' - FWIW. It also says: "he found performances frustrating in countries such as Germany, which had few harps or sufficiently proficient harpists." This might explain why the main symphonists before Berlioz did not use the instrument in their orchestral works (except concertos).
    #I♥CD

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    679
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I know Beethoven wrote a lovely piece for harp and orchestra for his ballet "The Creatures of Prometheus".



    Salieri also wrote a variation employing the Harp in his "Twenty six variations on La Folia de Spagna" for Orchestra. At about 2;15 into the video.


  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    Gilbert, AZ
    Posts
    553
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Interestingly, in the original manuscript the church bell part was actually scored for a piano! There have been recordings that use it, too. The old Dmitri Mitropolous NY Phil for one. In the 1910 Breitkopf edition, the piano part is still there, but the part should be played on two bells (C and G) if possible. Otherwise, use "several" pianos. I would imagine that Berlioz wound up using pianos a lot. Tubular bells didn't come around until the 1880's. Some orchestra had their own set of real church bells to use since there are other works using bells like this. The best sounding performances I've played or heard used real cast bells just for this purpose, and they're terribly expensive and heavy, too. Tubular bells are a decent substitute. The worst substitute I have ever heard was in Philly with Muti. The bells looked like a section of large steel industrial pipe. They were loud, assuredly lighter than real bells, but the timbre was all wrong - hollow with no depth.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Posts
    190
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I became involved in a discussion on this subject a few years ago so I wrote the Berlioz Society for more information. I got replies from Alastair Aberdare, Hugh Macdonald and David Cairns. AA wrote

    'The autograph includes the option of pianos instead of bells in the last movement: Berlioz’s own note in the autograph score says, “If it is not possible to find two bells low enough for one of the three Cs and one of the three Gs written, it would be better to use several pianos downstage, playing the bell part in double octaves, as written.” This alternative appears to have been included from the start'

    HM added -
    'Both the autograph and the printed score explain that a piano may substitute for bells. It is not clear whether Berlioz was ever able to procure bells for his own performances, and it is generally assumed that a piano always served both in France and abroad'.

    and

    'There's very little to go on. The Opéra possessed a pair of bells in C and G in 1793, but whether Berlioz knew that or not is unknown. Would they or could they have been transported to the Conservatoire in 1830? Again, unknown. The fact that he ultimately printed the part as a piano part suggests that he had little expectation that bells would be used except rarely. Berlioz was always interested in the acoustic properties of bells, as you will know'

    DC wrote -

    'To the best of my knowledge no performance of the symphony in Paris in Berlioz’s lifetime (most of which were conducted by him) included bells, and very probably none given by him abroad. At least one newspaper report of Paris performances specifically refers to a piano. In my experience it is much better to use a piano – I have done so several times – if the only bells available are high ones. The sound he wanted was the deep tolling of a funeral bell, and, in default of that, one or more pianos, with the loud pedal down, is the best alternative'

    Finally (for now), in the Treatise on Orchestration Berlioz gives the Finale of the Symphonie Fantastique as a musical example with no mention of pianos as a substitute.

  6. Likes Triplets liked this post
  7. #6
    Senior Member techniquest's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Wessex, UK
    Posts
    1,111
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    mbhaub and Biffo, these are very interesting posts - thank-you.
    A recording made by Anton Nanut with the Ljubljana RSO uses piano, tubular bell and tamtam combination; a most unusual sound.
    There may come a time when Youtube won't let us do this...

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •