Conductor Michael Christie helps resurrect Berlioz.
Phoenix Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to perform Symphonie Fantastique on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, November 23-25.
Psychedelic music — sounds to evoke or accompany chemically enhanced/altered states of imagination/perception — existed long before Syd Barrett or John Lennon dropped their first tab of "sunshine" in the 1960s. In 1830, prompted by the double-whammy mojo of unrequited love and opium, French composer Hector Berlioz composed his masterwork, Symphonie Fantastique (subtitled "An Episode in the Life of an Artist"). Breaking with convention, Berlioz composed a symphony with five movements instead of the usual four. Alternately classy-elegant and nightmarishly turbulent, it's a kaleidoscopic, vivid soundtrack to a feverish dream-narrative. Each movement delineates a doomed romance, from heart-swelling idealized notions to feeling alone in a merrymaking crowd, through rustic ruminations, frustrated desire, murder, execution, and finally, a hellish orgy in the afterlife. Fantastique is one of the cornerstones of the European classical repertoire, Berlioz's Piper at the Gates of Dawn, his In the Court of the Crimson King. It remains one of the most-performed symphonies, its fans proud of having several different recorded interpretations. This is your grandparents' classical music, assuming your GPs hung with Aldous Huxley and Edgar Allan Poe.