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In the timeline of musical history, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique is a thunderbolt out of the blue. Written in 1830, only three years have passed since the death of Beethoven, who left a formidable legacy of nine game-changing symphonies.
Whilst other composers are perhaps overawed by this giant’s shadow, 26-year-old Berlioz was unfazed - he was inspired by the Beethoven model and expands it in every direction. He adds new instruments and expands the dynamic and emotional range of the orchestra but, above all, Berlioz does something extraordinary: he uses the symphony to tell a story.