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Sister Helen 'Symphonic Poem No 3'

composer

 
Sister Helen represents the opposite approach to love from that of Beatrice—that of implacable revenge motivated by betrayal and jealousy. This, the third and perhaps the most intense of Wallace’s symphonic poems, is based on a poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti’s poem is in ballad idiom, but coloured with pre-Raphaelite colours:

‘Why did you melt your waxen man,
Sister Helen?
To-day is the third since you began.’
‘The time was long, yet the time ran,
Little brother.’
O Mother, Mary Mother,
Three days to-day, between Hell and Heaven!

The opening Largo sostenuto depicts her brooding jealousy and, in the woodwind, the flame of the waxen image of her betrayer. Recollection of her former love, expressed with great feeling, only wells up to the dotted rhythm of the first fortissimo, cruelly anticipating her ultimate triumph.

The Vivace, Scottish in idiom, describes with lilting innocence the little brother whom she has sent to the window to see if a horseman approaches. And soon, indeed, we hear the approach, leading to a climax at her refusal, meno allegro:

‘But he calls for ever on your name
Sister Helen,
And says that he melts before a flame.’
‘My heart for his pleasure fared the same,
Little brother.’
O Mother, Mary Mother,
Fire at the heart, between Hell and Heaven!

The Andante describes the tokens and pleas of her former lover, forming a kind of slow movement, musically isolated, as it should be, from the perverse emotions of Sister Helen which break out again at the Con fuoco. Others ride to her to beg her to break the spell, but to no avail. The extreme melodrama of the subject might have tempted a lesser composer into a work of unremitting gloom, but Sister Helen’s own memories of true love return in varied form, and it is typical of Wallace’s rounded view of his characters that he allows her a true memory of beauty—something not granted her in the poem.

But the end is indeed inevitable, and the final stanza is brought to its awful fruition with intense power as her dead lover’s ghost is doomed to wander as hers will be until the Last Judgement:

‘Ah! what white thing at the door has cross’d
Ah! what it this that sighs in the frost?’
‘A soul that’s lost as mine is lost,
Little brother!’
O Mother, Mary Mother,
Lost, lost, all lost, between Hell and Heaven!

from notes by John Purser © 1996

Sœur Helen personnifie une approche de l’amour aux antipodes de celle de Béatrice—une revanche implacable, motivée par la trahison et la jalousie. Ce poème symphonique, le troisième et peut-être le plus intense de Wallace, repose sur un poème de Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Le Largo sostenuto initial dépeint la jalousie menaçante de l’héroïne tandis que les bois évoquent la flamme de la figure cireuse de celui qui la trahit. Le souvenir de son amour passé, exprimé avec une grande sensibilité, ne monte que jusqu’au rythme pointé du premier fortissimo, anticipant cruellement son triomphe ultime. Le Vivace, de style écossais, décrit avec une innocence mélodieuse le petit frère qu’elle envoya à la fenêtre voir si un cavalier approchait.

L’Andante dépeint les souvenirs et les appels de son amour passé, formant une sorte de mouvement lent, musicalement isolé, comme il se doit, des émotions perverses de sœur Helen, qui ressurgissent au Con fuoco. Mais la fin est véritablement inévitable et la stance finale est amenée à son effroyable concrétisation avec une puissance intense, qui voit le fantôme de son amour défunt condamné à errer, comme le sien le sera, jusqu’au jugement dernier.

extrait des notes rédigées par John Purser © 1996
Français: Hypérion

Schwester Helens Art in der Liebe ist das genaue Gegenteil von Beatrices Wegen—unerbittliche Rache, motiviert von Verrat und Eifersucht. Dieses Werk, das dritte und vielleicht ernsthafteste von Wallaces symphonischen Gedichten, basiert auf einem Gedicht von Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Das Largo sostenuto in der Eröffnung stellt ihre brütende Eifersucht dar, und die Holzblasinstrumente die Flamme des wächsernen Bildes des Mannes, der sie verraten hat. Die Erinnerung an ihre alte Liebe, ausgedrückt mit viel Gefühl, kommt nur zum punktierten Rhythmus des ersten Fortissimo an die Oberfläche und antizipiert dabei grausam ihren letztendlichen Triumph. Das Vivace, schottische Folklore, beschreibt mit munterer Unschuld den kleinen Bruder, den sie an das Fenster geschickt hat, um nach einem nahenden Reiter Ausschau zu halten.

Das Andante beschreibt die Gesten und das Flehen ihres vormaligen Geliebten und bildet eine Art langsamen Satz, der, ganz wie es sein sollte, von den perversen Emotionen der Sister Helen, die beim Con fuoco wieder ausbrechen, musikalisch isoliert ist. Doch das Ende ist in der Tat unabwendbar, und die letzte Strophe erreicht wirksam das furchtbare Ziel, als der Geist ihres toten Geliebten dazu verdammt wird, wie ihr Geist bis zum letzten Gericht zu wandern.

aus dem Begleittext von John Purser © 1996
Deutsch: Anke Vogelhuber

Recordings

Wallace: Symphonic Poems
CDH55461Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Hyperion monthly sampler – August 2014
FREE DOWNLOADHYP201408Download-only monthly sampler

Details

Part 1: Largo sostenuto
Track 14 on CDH55461 [4'46] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Part 2: Vivace
Track 15 on CDH55461 [3'00] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Part 3: Andante
Track 16 on CDH55461 [3'04] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Part 4: Con fuoco
Track 17 on CDH55461 [2'04] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Part 5: Meno allegro
Track 18 on CDH55461 [5'46] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
Track 22 on HYP201408 [5'46] Download-only monthly sampler

Track-specific metadata for CDA66848 track 17

Con fuoco
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-96-84817
Duration
2'04
Recording date
13 December 1995
Recording venue
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Wallace: Symphonic Poems (CDA66848)
    Disc 1 Track 17
    Release date: September 1996
    Deletion date: August 2011
    Superseded by CDH55461
  2. Wallace: Symphonic Poems (CDH55461)
    Disc 1 Track 17
    Release date: January 2014
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I
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