RMA Graduate Students' Conference

  • David Curran (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


Transcending the romance: Berlioz's Les Nuits d'été

Despite its status as one of the earliest orchestrated song cycles, Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été has received relatively little analytical attention. Julian Rushton has discussed its cyclic nature in a brief essay in Berlioz Studies, while Charles Rosen has provided a number of insights on harmony in his chapter on Berlioz in The Romantic Generation, but there is much more to be said. Stephen Rodgers’s recent monograph, Form, Programme and Metaphor in Berlioz’s Music highlights the importance of strophic forms in the entirety of Berlioz’s output. It follows, then, that a more detailed look at some of Berlioz’s songs may unlock some of the more difficult features of his large-scale works. Furthermore the settings of Les Nuits d’été represent some of Berlioz’s finest songs and can be profitably read, against the backdrop of the French romance and mélodie, as an effort to create a French art song on a par with the German Lied. This paper focuses on one of the most celebrated songs of the cycle, Berlioz’s setting of Théophile Gautier’s ‘Le Spectre de la rose’, and will look at questions of form; the relationship between text and music; and Berlioz’s unique sense of harmony and tonal organization. Some of the harmonic quirks outlined by Rosen will be shown to be part of large-scale relationships that operate across large spans of the music, challenging notions of Berlioz’s music as lacking internal logic.
Period8 Jan 201510 Jan 2015
Event typeConference
LocationUnited KingdomShow on map