Pelléas et Mélisande (Sibelius)

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Pelléas et Mélisande, is incidental music in ten parts [1] written in 1905 by Jean Sibelius, for Maurice Maeterlinck's 1892 drama Pelléas et Mélisande. Sibelius later on slightly rearranged the music into a nine movement suite, published as Op. 46, which became one of his most popular concert works.

Movements of the Suite[edit]

  1. At the Castle Gate
  2. Mélisande
  3. At the Seashore
  4. A Spring in the Park
  5. The Three Blind Sisters
  6. Pastorale
  7. Mélisande at the Spinning Wheel
  8. Entr'acte
  9. The Death of Mélisande

The opening movement of the suite for orchestra is called "At the Castle Gate". The strings introduce an atmospheric, brief theme, which is then restated with help from the woodwind. This introduction is closed by austere chords. This section is familiar to British television viewers as the theme of the world's longest-running TV programme, the BBC's The Sky at Night, presented by Patrick Moore (1923-2012).

Then the character Mélisande is introduced with characteristically strong material presented by a cor anglais solo. This is succeeded by a brief intermezzo, "At the Seashore," which Sibelius regarded as dispensable in concert performances.

The strings present the dense sonorities of the melodic material of "A Spring in the Park," which is followed by the "Three Blind Sisters," in which another cor anglais solo is answered by monolithic orchestral harmonies.

The sixth movement, "Pastorale," is scored for woodwind and string instruments and exhibits the subtlety of chamber music.

The seventh, "Mélisande at the Spinning Wheel," presents the largest and most dramatic image heard so far, which is followed by an Entr'acte. This immense movement could serve as a symphonic finale in its own right but the pace of the drama demands an epilogue. With the moving "The Death of Mélisande," the tragic story of the doomed love affair reaches its conclusion.

Sibelius later made a transcription of the suite for solo piano, excluding the 'At the Seashore' movement.



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