Work: Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 80: Sicilienne
About This Work
In 1898, the celebrated actress Mrs. Patrick Campell commissioned incidental music from Gabriel Fauré for a London production, in English, of Pelléas et Mélisande. Fauré composed this music between May 16 and June 5, 1898,
and conducted it in the Prince of Wales Theatre at London on June 21. Fauré asked Charles Koechlin to orchestrate 17 cues (including a borrowed Sicilienne from 1893). After London, Fauré himself re-scored three of them as a concert suite, adding the Sicilienne a decade later. It is his masterpiece for orchestra -- tasteful, sweetly charming, expressively "proper" and basically chaste, as befits a play that depends on mood for its effect rather than on events.
The "Prélude" depicts the forest in which Golaud discovers fragile, amnesiac Mélisande. Beginning in G major, Quasi adagio, until Golaud's hunting horn approaches, it returns to G for a quiet close. "La fileuse" is the music before Act III, depicting Mélisande at her spinning wheel with Pelléas in rapt attendance -- same key and 3/4 time as the "Prélude." The tempo is Andantino quasi allegretto for its oboe and horn solos amid gently whirring strings. Sicilienne, from Act II of the play, is Fauré's portrait of Mélisande, no matter that he borrowed and re-scored it for solo flute, harp, and strings. The tempo is slightly quicker (Allegretto molto moderato), the key B flat major, the rhythm 6/8. "La mort de Mélisande" accompanied her cortège in Act V -- muted, poignant music marked Molto adagio that was played at Fauré's funeral in 1924.
-- Roger Dettmer, All Music Guide
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