In poetry there are two giants, rough Homer and fine Shakespere. In music likewise we have two giants, Beethoven, the thinker, and the superthinker Berlioz.
Modest Mussorgsky, in a letter to Vladimir Stassov, October 18, 1872; Oskar von Riesemann (trans. Paul England) Moussorgsky (1929) p. 107.
“Portrait of Hector Berlioz” by Émile Signol, 1832.
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 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.”