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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Overture, "Les Francs Juges". Op. 3 (Berlioz)

Overture, "Les Francs Juges". Op. 3

Hector Berlioz

In 1827 Berlioz, at that time struggling with poverty, debts, domestic troubles, and diappointed hopes, wrote an opera, "Les Francs Juges" ("The Vehmic Judges"). Berlioz himself called it "a hymn of despair," a fitting designation, as it depicts all of rage, as well as a piteous appeal for mercy, and black despair that the human heart can contain. The Francs Juges, like the German Vehmgerichte, were the vigilance committess and lynching mobs of the barbarous times when the laws were powerless. Edicts were issued in secret and mercilessly enforced. The penalty was always death.

The overture begins with an introduction, mainly in the strings, followed by a brief pianissimo passage, which leads to a majestic theme given out by the brasses. After elaboration a string passage enters for the violins. this is also elaborated, and during the elaboration is heard what may be called the Vehmic phrase of three notes, given out by the trombones and ophicleide with awful power. This is followed by the second subject, after which a passionate interlude, which suggests the despair of the accused, leads to the middle section, which opens with a chorale in the wind instruments, against a theme in the strings and blasts by the trombones and percussion instruments, full of fury and mystery. After a short interlude the second subject returns with counter themes in the 'cellos and flute. The tumult is renewed, the trombones sounding the ominous phrase already referred to. At last the din dies away and the second subject reappears, this time in fugal form. In the working up of this fugue and the subject-matter the whole orchestra engages in a fortissimo outbreak, which is continued until a short Coda brings the overture to a close.

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See also:
Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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