Berlioz’s Orchestration Treatise: A Translation and by Berlioz, Hugh Macdonald

By Berlioz, Hugh Macdonald

Berlioz's Orchestration Treatise (1843) is a vintage textbook via a grasp of the orchestra, which has now not been to be had in English translation for over a century. it is a publication through and approximately Berlioz, because it presents not just a brand new translation but in addition an intensive statement on his textual content, facing the tools of Berlioz's time and evaluating his guide together with his perform. it's hence a examine of the excessive craft of the main particular orchestrator of the 19th century.

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Sacchini and Spontini, whose music was already almost forgotten, are cited with approval. Beethoven and Weber were familiar but no longer modern. Strauss’s insertion of extracts from Wagner and from his own works gave the Treatise an even more unbalanced air. But Gluck was the model from which Berlioz learnt his orchestral sensibility and this, he would assert, was not subject to the vagaries of fashion or mechanical science. Berlioz’s ideal was to apply Gluck’s incomparable sense of dramatic aptness to modern instruments, an ideal most clearly embodied in Les Troyens, with its very Gluckian dramatic tone and brilliant modern orchestration.

High up on the e string, on the other hand, divided into many parts and pianissimo, it becomes angelic and ethereal (Ex. 10c). Ex. 10 (a) (b) Bowed strings 15 Violins I div. (c) Violins II Violins III or Violas At this point I should say that orchestral violins are customarily divided into two sections, although there is no reason why they should not be subdivided into two or three sub-sections if the composer so desires. One may even sometimes divide them into as many as eight sections with good effect, either by taking eight solo violins playing in eight parts from the main body or by dividing both first and second violins into four equal parts.

The pistol shot Berlioz referred to was fired by Gaetano Pugnani when conducting a performance of his twenty-two-movement suite on Goethe’s Werther in Turin in the 1790s. Pugnani, for realistic effect, conducted in his shirtsleeves. The story was told by Blangini in his Souvenirs, published in Paris in 1834 and doubtless read by Berlioz. He must also have been aware that Musard used to enliven his Op´era balls with pistol shots. In the Rgm version of this passage the order of the string groups was different, namely: plucked, with keyboard, bowed.

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