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Harold in Italy: movement III by Hector Berlioz Analysis [NAM 3]

An important instrumental piece to analyse at AS Music, Harold in Italy is an orchestral piece inspired Byron’s ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ which is a poem of travels and reflections of a world-weary young man looking for distractions in foreign lands. Berlioz does not retell the story but merely captures the mood of the traveller. Below is a complete analysis of the Berlioz piece which goes through pretty much every detail the piece. Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you.

The piece can be considered a symphony more than a concerto. A concerto is designed for a virtuous to take to have a solo melody.  Although the viola has a solo in it, it cannot be considered difficult enough to be classes as a virtuoso part. Other instruments included are the:

  • Piccolo and Oboe are used with the opening section. They are an octave apart because the piccolo is a transposing instrument which plays one octave higher than the score. 
  • The rest of the instruments are as follows; Flute, Oboe 2, Cor Anglais, Clarinets 1 and 2 in C, Bassoons, Horns 1 and 2 in C, Horn 3 in F, Horn 4 in E, Harp, Viola Solo, Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Violoncello and a Double Bass.

Berlioz uses a variety of romantic instruments which left out some brass instruments such as the Trumpet, Trombone, Cornets and percussion.

Section A Analysis
The movement replaces the more typical scherzo movement and instead is in the standard symphony structure which is ABA. However, Berlioz introduces the addition of a coda at the end which introduces elements from both section A and B.

The time signature starts in 6/8 (six quavers to a bar). This is a compound duple time and is double the tempo of section B which will find out later. Overall, the tonality is in C major:

  • Section A’s texture is melody-dominated homophony.
  • The Viola starts with a double pedal on C and G using a saltarello rhythm. The double pedal note can also been known as a double stopping drone where the Viola is playing two notes at once.
  • Oboe 2 and Bassoon 2 feature a held pedal at the beginning along with the Clarinet playing a double pedal held note.
  • Bar four in the Viola features a counter melody providing an added saltarello rhythm.
  • The Piccolo’s first appearance consists of a repeating melody centred on E. It has irregular phrasing and feature conjunct motion (moves in step). It uses decoration and inversions to represent a pitteri (rustic sound).
  • Melodic ideas have accents on the second beats of the bar for bars 7, 8 and 10.
  • Bar 14 has a chord of F or IV.
  • Bar 17 has a modal inflection of B flat while bar 19 is a chord of G7 or V7.
  • The grace notes of bars 27-30 are a feature of the melody. The grace notes used are acciaccaturas. 
Section B Analysis
Section B starts at bar 32 and starts with a rhythm twice the speed as section A (from 138 to a lower 69. 
  • Section B is the main serenade of the piece. 
  • The strings arrangement in this section represented a plucked instrument such as a guitar.
  • Section B has irregular phrasing. The melodies are 7 bars followed by 7 bars, then 4 bars and then back to 7 bars.
  • The Cor Anglais is now playing the solo with the strings playing a homophonic accompaniment. 
  • The Violas use broken chords at the start of the section.
  • At bar 39, there is an imperfect cadence in A minor. At first, the chord clashes but resolves to F sharp in the next bar.
  • The Bassoon at bar 42 establishes the key of C major through the long pedal note of C. The main theme is therefore in the key of C.
  • At bars 48, the Clarinet uses the chalumeau (lower) register to play broken chords.
  • At bar 51, a chromatic change causes the chord to go from A minor to A major.
  • The word ‘arco’ is used in the strings at bar 53. This means to play the note with the bow. Violin 1 has a chromatic counter melody for bars 53-56.
  • Horn 1 and 2 at bar 59-65 has its own solo playing in thirds and sixths. It is a version of part of the serenade theme.
  • Bar 64 and 65 features augmentation (note values longer) in the Horns 1, 2 and 4.
  • ‘Theme de l’Adagio’ means the main theme or ‘idee fixe’.
  • The note values do not match the rhythm of the opening in this part of section B.
  • The main theme or ‘Harold main theme’ is heard at bar 67 with the Piccolo. The first four notes are G, C, E and G which means the theme opens with an arpeggio based on C major. The start of bar 68 has a falling third between a G and E. This is echoed in bar 69 between the F and D. Bar 70 does not have a falling third but a falling sixth. The falling thirds and sixths are important parts to the melody.
  • The serenade theme exploits the possibilities of mixing key signatures such as 3/4 and 6/8 together creating a sense of disorientation and cross rhythms.
  • Bar 77 has the use of triplet semi quavers.
  • There is a brief dialogue (conversion) between woodwind instruments of bars 79 and 80 where the parts are playing in and around each other.
  • The most technically challenge passage occurs with the Viola starting at bar 97. The key changes to D minor at bar 100 with the Viola still playing the demanding passage.
  • At bar 122, the main serenade ‘Harold’ theme starts again with it this time being in the key of C major.
  • The melody is ornamented in semi quavers at bar 132. 
  • The tempo changes back to 138 and the tonality of the piece starts in C major to the end. At bar 139, there is exact repetition of the very beginning (bars 1-31).
Extended Coda
The coda features both ideas from section A and B combining them together. With this structure, a coda is not normally seen (the structure is usually ABA). In this section, the Harold theme is heard complete in C major in the Flute and Harp and is played by long notes.  The serenade theme is fragmented into chunks.
  • The extended coda starts at bar 166. 
  • A saltarello rhythm is used in the Viola again while the Viola solo plays the Harold theme (idee fixe).
  • The Violin are to be played with ‘arco, con sord’. This means to play with the bow and play with the mute. 
  • At bar 170, the Flute now has the idee fixe (playing Harold’s theme).
  • At bar 185, the Harp is playing Harold’s theme in harmonics.
  • At bar 191 and 192, augmentation occurs in the Viola solo part. The semi quavers double note values to quavers while the crochet increases its note value by 50% to a dotted crochet. 
  • The saltarello rhythm in the Viola is now an octave lower at bars 189 onwards.
  • Bar 202-205 has a monophonic (just one part playing) statement of the serenade theme.
Overall, the harmonic language is mostly diatonic (stays within the scale and key it’s in). However, there are some chromatic diminished chords used occasionally. 

One Response

  1. Aimee May 6, 2012

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