I’ve written about the Symphonie fantastique before—not least the wonderful Rozhdestvensky’s solution to conducting the opening (by not conducting it).
Apart from Berlioz’s prophetic evocation of a 1960s’ curry-house, another respect in which he was well ahead of his time is in his meticulously verité depiction of an irritating upstairs neighbour giving furniture-moving lessons** at 3 o’clock in the morning, just as the drama of the 1st movement is unfolding—an unwelcome interruption to the Rêveries-Passions of its title. You know, one of those disturbances you can’t quite be bothered to get out of bed for to bang your broom on the ceiling.
This touching domestic scene is economically evoked with a random series of little grunts in the double basses (from 12.00 in the recording below) punctuating little wind phrases in the brief lull after the first throbbing climax is interrupted (to evoke Susan McClary):
Apart from John Eliot Gardiner’s rapport magnifique with French music, and the venue formidable, site of the première, [Uh-oh, he’s off again—Ed.], I use this 1993 version for the meretricious reason that I played a typically bijou role in it.
The fine Pete Hanson is leading. I can’t find the video on youtube at the moment, but we don’t look quite so young now—interrupted rêveries and passions can take their toll.
For Berlioz on oriental music, see here.
**Could Sir Malcolm himself have been among the pupils?