Marche au supplice de la Sinfonie fantastique [Épisode de la vie d'un artiste] de Hector Berlioz, S470a
This is the final edition of the fourth movement of the Symphonie fantastique
with its Introduction, the second edition of the Idée fixe
. The introduction is really an original nocturne by Liszt. It is based upon the theme which informs the whole of Berlioz’s symphony, as well as its sequel, Lélio
, and was first issued in 1846 (although some sources suggest that there may have been an earlier, untraced version from 1833), but its final form is much simpler in shape and texture. Strangely, Liszt changes the tonality from the A major of the first published version to B major in the present case – neither key being an obvious choice to introduce a march in G minor. The ‘March to the Scaffold’ itself has rather a complicated history: Liszt transcribed the whole symphony in 1833 and it was published the following year. It was re-engraved with very minor corrections in 1836 and two further (unchanged) editions appeared in Liszt’s lifetime. Meanwhile, the fourth movement appeared separately from the beginning, and was twice reissued before the present revision was made – the manuscript, in the Library of Congress (curiously mis-rendering the title as ‘Marche du supplice’, as some early editions of the single movement did) contains only the altered passages with notes for the engraver referring to the first version. The replacements are mostly made in the interests of clarity, and some wide stretches are removed, and the general effect of the changes is quite similar to that made between the versions of the Beethoven Symphonies. For some reason, this version has languished virtually unplayed, even though the movement itself has been given often enough as an encore, a tradition which began with Liszt himself.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1997