The Wagnerian influence is still very apparent, yet the music remains characteristically French in its sonorous refinement and clear luminous orchestration. Four melodic ideas are announced in the introductory Assez lent et calme section in the key of A flat major. The first of these, rising and falling in a rich Wagnerian texture of divided cellos in four parts, sets the rustic scene; the second in the horns, rising chromatically à la Tristan und Isolde, stands for ideal love; the third, a lyrical melody with triplet quavers represents Saugefleurie herself, appropriately stated by a solo viola; this is brusquely interrupted by the fourth theme, an incisively sinister rhythmic motif in the violins, signifying fate and destiny. The last of these is subsequently taken up by muted horns as the music becomes increasingly urgent. A new C major leaping theme in the horns, brilliantly evoking the royal hunt and very obviously derived from Siegfried, dominates the following section. Another new and virile melody also emerges, representing the Prince, while the rhythmic idea of fate becomes increasingly prominent. The calm atmosphere of the A flat opening eventually returns like an oasis, featuring Saugefleurie’s melody played by flutes and upper strings with a broken-chord accompaniment on two harps, a magical effect. An extended and varied development of her melody, together with the Prince’s theme, reaches the bright tonality of E major. Eventually, the Tristan-esque idea significantly reappears followed by the C major hunting-horn music, which gradually disappears into the distance. As the music winds down, the rhythmic motif of fate is now heard in conjunction with the Tristan-esque idea as Saugefleurie expires. The superbly poetic coda in the initial A flat tonality depicts her transfiguration as the solo viola and flute play her lyrical melody in a most imaginative texture of quaver movement on two piccolos, timpani rolls and tappings, broken chords on harps, and widespread string chords.
from notes by Andrew Thomson © 2009