The Use of Percussion in Berlioz‘s Symphony Fantastique (1830) in Light of his Treatise for Instrumentation (1844)


Ricky PazFollow

Level of Education of Students Involved


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-27-2023


The percussion part in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique (1830) stands out in 19th-century repertoire as a relatively early example of an ambitious and highly elaborate, active, even central part of the score, which adds to the work's overall impact. Berlioz’s contribution to the advancement and development of percussion technique via his orchestral compositions cannot be overstated.
This research investigates Berlioz's percussion part in Symphonie Fantastique (1830) in context with a later work, the Treatise on Instrumentation (1844). I focus on the third, fourth, and fifth movements. In investigating my topic from a historical, cultural, and analytical perspective, I ask in which way Berlioz's experience of writing Symphonie Fantastique (1830) might have coloured the sections on percussion in the later treatise. Furthermore, I conduct performative analyses -- embodying the percussion parts myself -- to inquire into aspects of drumstick labeling, the spooky qualities of the kettle drum, bass drum and crash cymbals combinations, benefits of multiple timpanists, and the use of church bells as part of the percussion instrumentation. By analyzing the treatise in relation to the symphony, with specific focus on the above-named aspects, both the symphony's percussion parts and the section in the Treatise on Instrumentation (pages 370-390) and the relationship between the two become more clear, showing off the composer/writer as the orchestration expert he was in 1844.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Ricky Paz is a junior music education major whose primary instruments are within the percussion family. After coming to college, he fell in love with romantic era music. With Berlioz being in the early years of this period, it was an awesome topic for him to study.