Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique is a kind of frenzied valentine to an Irish actress he'd fallen in love with. Brokenhearted at the way she ignored his letters, he took a hefty dose of opium, and the music displays the brilliance of his passion and his opiated delirium. It's performed by the San Francisco Symphony on Sept. 28, 30, and Oct. 1 at Davies Symphony Hall.
As my co-host Matias Tarnopolsky notes, SF Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas has conducted this psychedelic love song since his days leading the London Symphony Orchestra, and he knows just how to make it hum (and he knows how to talk about it, as he often does from the podium, and in his PBS Keeping Score TV series below). And about that frenzied valentine? Six years after Berlioz composed Symphonie Fantastique, he married the object of his desire, Irish actress Harriet Smithson. Details here.