Music and Meaning in Three Works by Hector Berlioz: Harold en Italie, La Damnation de Faust, and Les Troyens

David Curran

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This study combines detailed musical analysis of form and structure with concerns for history, culture and philosophy. Chapter 1 provides a biographical, historical, and intellectual context for the studies that follow it at the same time as it situates the study in existing musicological literature.

Chapter 2 analyses Berlioz’s second symphony, Harold en Italie (1834), through the lens of sonata theory and Schenkerian theory, in order to demonstrate its engagement with the formal and tonal conventions of post-Beethovenian symphonism. It argues that if Berlioz's symphony can be shown to engage with the musical processes of this tradition then it also deserves to be interpreted through the philosophical framework of this tradition.

Chapter 3 provides an analysis of the music and text of La Damnation de Faust (1846). It focuses, in particular, on the musical characterisation of the work’s hero, Faust, by looking at three numbers in which he has a prominent part: ‘Le vieil hiver’, ‘Air de Faust’, and ‘Invocation à la nature'. It attempts to relate Berlioz’s conception of the Faust myth to important aspects of Goethe’s world view.

Drawing on Paul Robinson’s suggestion that Berlioz’s Virgilian opera, Les Troyens (1858), is a ‘musical manifestation of Hegel’s idea of History’, the final chapter seeks, through a semiotic-Schenkerian analysis of the prelude-like number, ‘Chasse Royale et Orage’, to investigate ideas of love and history throughout the opera.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Berry, Mark, Supervisor
  • Downes, Stephen, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Hector Berlioz
  • Romantic music
  • Analysis
  • Sonata theory
  • Schenker
  • Topic Theory
  • Musical meaning
  • Hermeneutics

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