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Te Deum (H 118): Prelude and March

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    See also Berlioz Libretti; Berlioz and his music: self-borrowings

Prelude (originally the 3rd movement)

    This movement is found in the autograph score of the work where it precedes the Dignare. Berlioz specified in the score that the piece should only be included in performances that had some military connotation. But he clearly had his doubts about it. He did not include it in the first performance of the work at St Eustache in Paris on 30 April 1855, and in a letter to Liszt shortly before he writes that he has ‘simply removed the prelude where the dubious modulations are to be found’ (Correspondance générale no. 1935). The prelude was not published in the first edition of the Te Deum which came out in the same year (the Dignare thus became the 3rd movement). It was never played in Berlioz’s lifetime. Nowadays it is rarely performed, and few modern recordings of the Te Deum include it (those by Eliahu Inbal with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, and more recently by John Nelson with the Orchestre de Paris; see Berlioz Discography).
    The prelude is based on the main theme of the 1st movement, for which Berlioz gives a metronome mark of crotchet = 88. He does not give a metronome mark for this movement, but indicates that the tempo should be slightly faster than that of the 1st movement. In this version the tempo has been set at crotchet = 100.
    The transcription provided here runs into the orchestral introduction of the Dignare which follows, to show the contrast between the two movements.

     Prelude from the Te Deum (duration 3'27")
    — Score in large format
    (file created on 1.01.2000; revised  22.07.2001)

March for the Presentation of the Colours (final movement) 

    Like the Prelude, but with far less justification, the March for the Presentation of the Colours which concludes the Te Deum is omitted from most performances and recordings of the work. Yet Berlioz included it in the first performance and in the full score published soon after. There is nothing to suggest that he thought it should be performed only on special occasions (as was the case with the Prelude).  Berlioz’s very measured metronome mark (crotchet = 92) is often ignored in performance, but it gives to the piece a processional stateliness which forms a fitting conclusion to the work. The central fugal section is based on the main theme of the Te Deum and in the concluding pages Berlioz brings back, on organ and full orchestra, the theme with which the organ had launched the whole work.

     March for the Presentation of the Colours from the Te Deum (duration 5'9")
    — Score in large format
    (file created on 23.01.2000; revised 29.08.2001)

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

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