It’s 1830 and the course of history is about to change: Romanticism is just around the corner! Politically, the turbulent sweep of the July Revolution caused Charles X—the French King—and his second Restoration to fall; meanwhile, in the arts world, something that has never been seen before is about to be created. On one side, Hugo’s Hernani renewed the art of drama—with quite a fanfare—on the other, Berlioz presented his Symphonie fantastique. Commenting upon its critical reception, he wrote: “The Symphonie fantastique has been welcomed with stamping and shouting [...]. It was chaos.” What’s so innovative about it? The autobiographical aspects of the work, depicting Berlioz’s unrequited love for the charming actress Harriet Smithson. 

Browse recordings of Symphonie fantastique: An Episode in the Life of an Artist, in Five Parts, Op. 14

Listen to the spectacular Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz on is the best online platform for live streaming Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, offering you a VIP ticket to the most famous productions with world-class artists captured in the best audio quality and HD video. A well-known example of programmatic music, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, written in 1830, is a colossal and innovative work: it depicts Berlioz’s love for the charming actress Harriet Smithson. It is also one of the most famous works of the symphonic repertoire and has been featured in many films. Discover the best interpretation of this masterpiece on!

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At the end of the 1820s, Berlioz was inspired to write a major symphonic work. The spark came from actress Harriet Smithson, playing the role of Ophelia in a Parisian production of Hamlet. He fell madly in love with her and the Symphonie fantastique is thus a description in five acts of his consuming passion. The composer wrote a grandiose and innovative work, involving a spectacular symphonic instrumentation chasing after a recurrent theme—an “idée fixe”—for about 50 minutes of this long composition. The leitmotif represents Harriet Smithson herself, the beloved woman: it is played with a twirling energy, as in the first movement, and with a martial cadence, as in the “Marche au supplice” (“March to the scaffold”). Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique was finally finished in April 1830, and premiered in Paris in December 1830, conducted by François-Antoine Habeneck. It was an immediate success. And even if Harriet Smithson didn’t attend the premiere, she later accepted his wedding proposal in 1833…