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Pelleas and Melisande, Op 46


Maeterlinck’s drama Pelleas and Melisande (1893) fired the imagination of a number of prominent fin-de-siecle composers—Debussy in his great opera, Schoenberg in his huge romantic orchestral canvas, and Fauré and Sibelius’s delicate atmospheric stage scores. Fauré’s score was written for a production at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London in 1898, while Sibelius worked on a staging for Helsinki’s Swedish Theatre in 1905, translated by Bertel Gripenberg.

Most of the music takes the form of interludes, conjuring up the magical and fantastical nature of the play and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the love triangle of Golaud, Melisande and Pelleas. Sibelius almost immediately produced a concert suite. It opens with an imposing evocation of a castle, broadly drawn and epic in style. The darkness of the drama is already evident in the second movement, a portrait of Melisande. With 'At the seashore', Melisande and Pelleas see the departure of the ship in which she arrived. 'By a spring in the park' acts as a prelude to the two lovers walking together but hints at the darker turn of events to come. 'The three blind sisters' is a song, sung by Melisande in the play, and takes the form of a medieval ballad. The 'Pastorale' conjures up a scene of colourful harvesting. The music of 'Melisande at the spinning-wheel' is very graphic but it also, in its dark obsessive way, portends tragedy to come. The 'Entr’acte' acts as a prelude in the play to a scene where Pelleas and Melisande plan a secret meeting but once again there is dark undercurrent. The suite ends with 'The death of Melisande'—the longest and most substantial movement, a remarkably touching prelude to the last act—as Melisande lies dying from childbirth, Golaud is left with the unresolved question of her relationship with Pelleas.

from notes by Rob McEwan © 2003


Sibelius: Pelleas and Melisande & other works
Studio Master: CKD220Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


No 1: At the castle gate
No 2: Melisande
No 3: At the seashore
No 4: A spring in the park
No 5: The three blind sisters
No 6: Pastorale
No 7: Melisande at the spinning-wheel
No 8: Entr'acte
No 9: The death of Melisande

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