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Weber: Invitation to the Dance (op. 65), orchestrated by Berlioz (H 90)

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    In 1841 the Paris Opéra, then under the directorship of Léon Pillet, decided to put on a production in French of Weber’s Der Freischütz. The conventions of the Opéra required that no spoken dialogue be used, and that a ballet be included: Berlioz, the leading champion of Weber in France, was approached but only consented to participate on the express condition that Weber’s masterpiece be performed complete and without the kind of cuts and adaptations which Castil-Blaze had inflicted on the work at the Odéon in the 1820s, renaming it Robin des bois in the process (see Berlioz Memoirs ch. 16 for the story of Castil-Blaze and Weber, and ch. 52 for the 1841 production and Berlioz’s part in it).

    For the purposes of the 1841 production Berlioz composed recitatives (see H 89), but as for the ballet he refused to include any music other than Weber’s own. This was the origin of his orchestration of the brilliant piano piece by Weber, the Aufforderung zum Tanz or Invitation to the Dance (op. 65). Berlioz’s orchestration is scrupulously faithful to Weber’s original, as can be seen from a comparison of the two versions, except that the music is transposed up a semitone from the original D flat to the key of D major, more manageable for the strings, and which also sounds more brilliant in the orchestra. The orchestration is a fine example of Berlioz’s mastery in this field – imaginative and varied, it enhances Weber’s original without ever drawing attention to itself. It invites comparison with some of Berlioz’s own music, notably the 2nd movement (Un bal) of the Symphonie Fantastique.

    Neither Weber’s original nor Berlioz’s orchestration contain any metronome marks. In this version the Moderato has been set at crotchet = 80 and the Allegro vivace at dotted minim = 72, with an increase to dotted minim = 80 at the Vivace (bar 202).

    Weber: Invitation to the Dance, orch. Berlioz (duration 9'21")
    — Score in large format
    (file created on 25.09.2001)

   Weber: Invitation to the Dance, original piano version (duration 9'21")
    — Score in large format
    (file created on 10.10.2001)

© Michel Austin for all scores and text on this page.

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