Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz

“Portrait of Hector Berlioz” by Émile Signol, 1832.

Symphonie Fantastique

From Berlioz’s program notes (via Wikipedia):

The author imagines that a young vibrant musician, afflicted by the sickness of spirit which a famous writer[2] has called the wave of passions [la vague des passions], sees for the first time a woman who unites all the charms of the ideal person his imagination was dreaming of, and falls desperately in love with her. By a strange anomaly, the beloved image never presents itself to the artist’s mind without being associated with a musical idea, in which he recognises a certain quality of passion, but endowed with the nobility and shyness which he credits to the object of his love.

This melodic image and its model keep haunting him ceaselessly like a double idée fixe. This explains the constant recurrence in all the movements of the symphony of the melody which launches the first allegro. The transitions from this state of dreamy melancholy, interrupted by occasional upsurges of aimless joy, to delirious passion, with its outbursts of fury and jealousy, its returns of tenderness, its tears, its religious consolations – all this forms the subject of the first movement.


idée fixe melody from Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.”

Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas (1834–1917)
Achille Henri Victor Gouffé (1804–1874), Double Bass Player at the Paris Opéra, 1869
9 1/4 x 13 1/8 inches (227 x 321 mm)
Thaw Collection, The Morgan Library & Museum; EVT 279

Degas masterfully employed the device of placing the cropped figure of the bass player Gouffé—seen from behind—in the extreme foreground of the painting The Orchestra of the Opera (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). The viewer is situated in the audience, directly behind the orchestra pit, with a view past Gouffé to the footlit stage.
X-radiographs of the painting reveal that the figure of Gouffé was added at a late stage of execution, explaining the need for the present study. In fact, this sheet is from a sketchbook Degas used in Paris and Normandy between 1869 and 1872 that contained two other drawings for the same painting. These studies reveal his complex working method and document the continued evolution of the composition.