High on opium, Berlioz’s protagonist is unrelentingly marched to the scaffold to be executed for the murder of his true love. A typical Berlioz tour de force the piece ends with a perversely joyous conclusion.
The March To The Scaffold is the fourth of five movements from Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. The symphony tells the story of a troubled young man and his quest to find his true love. This true love is depicted in the music by a melody known as an idée fixe (fixed idea) and appears in every movement. The fourth movement takes on a nightmarish character as having taken opium, the young man dreams that he has killed his true love and is about to be executed for his crime. The music is an unrelenting forced march to the scaffold. The idée fixe appears only once in this movement, as a sudden reminiscence just before the guillotine strikes the young man’s before the movement comes to an end with a perversely joyous conclusion.