Hector Berlioz – The Damnation of Faust Op. 24 (Hungarian March)

La damnation de Faust (English: The Damnation of Faust), Op. 24 is a work for four solo voices, full seven-part chorus, large children’s chorus and orchestra by the French composer Hector Berlioz. He called it a “légende dramatique” (dramatic legend). It was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 6 December 1846.
The French composer was inspired by a translation of Goethe’s dramatic poem Faust and produced a musical work that, like the masterpiece on which it is based, defies easy categorisation. Conceived at various times as a free-form oratorio and as an opera (Berlioz ultimately called it a “légende dramatique”) its travelogue form and cosmic perspective have made it an extreme challenge to stage as an opera. Berlioz himself was eager to see the work staged, but once he did, he conceded that the production techniques of his time were not up to the task of bringing the work to dramatic life. Most of the work’s fame has come through concert performances.
Berlioz read Goethe’s Faust, Part One in 1828, in Gérard de Nerval’s translation; “this marvellous book fascinated me from the first”, he recalled in his Memoirs. “I could not put it down. I read it incessantly, at meals, in the theatre, in the street.” He was so impressed that a suite entitled Eight Scenes from Faust became his Opus 1 (1829), though he later recalled all the copies of it he could find. He returned to the material in 1845, to make a larger work, with some additional text by Almire Gandonnière to Berlioz’s specifications, that he first called a “concert opera”, and as it expanded, finally a “dramatic legend”.
He worked on the score during his concert tour of 1845, adding his own text for “Nature immense, impénétrable et fière”—Faust’s climactic invocation of all nature—and incorporating the Rákóczi March, which had been a thunderous success at a concert in Pest, Hungary, on 15 February 1846.


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