Relayed from the National Museum of Wales
National Orchestra of Wales
(Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Cymru)
The so-called 'War-Song of the Hungarians' which Berlioz incorporated in his stirring March, is, strictly speaking, an old 'Hymn of Hate' directed against the Austrians. The tune was given to Berlioz during a concert tour in that part of the world, so that he might compose a piece to be played in Pesth which would be likely to capture the public favour. It did so to a degree which exceeded even Berlioz' hopes. It had thus nothing to do with Faust, but, in order to enrich that score with a piece which was so obviously popular, Berlioz invented a new episode which he tacked on to the story, so that Faust might visit Hungary and hear this very March. In the whole work, which is to be played at the Symphony Concert on Friday, the March comes at the end of the first scene.
Before the 'Dance of Sylphs' begins, Mefistopheles has bewitched Faust into deep sleep, through which runs a dream of youth and beauty. The dancers are spirits of the air, who hover about him while he sleeps, and as the dance comes to an end, they vanish one by one. It is a dainty dance, in delicate tone throughout, flowing along gracefully in waltz rhythm. With the single exception of the March, it is probably the best known number from the whole work.
Liszt, whoso pet theory it was that music must convey an impression as definite as that of words, chose as the basis of his Symphonic Poem 'Les Preludes,' a passage in Lamartine's 'Meditations Poetiques,' the passage which begins 'Is this life of ours anything but a series of Preludes to that unknown song of which death intones the first solemn note?' The music depicts the happiness of early life, storms which assail the human soul, its moments of calm reflection, the trumpet call to arms, the clash of battle, and the final victory over conflict when man gains entire possession of his own forces.