Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is Debussy’s last stage work, a synthesis of orchestral and vocal music, dance, mime and speech, written (in 1911) after all the well-known orchestral works. D’Annunzio’s text is spoken in Bernstein’s own translation (the recording made in 1962, his wife one of the narrators), but the music is sung in French. It’s uneven but a worthwhile curiosity, among its best moments the serenely celestial ‘Magic Chamber’, in which the NYPO strings bloom, and ‘The Wounded Laurel’ which could have come from La mer. Mr and Mrs Bernstein were having a good day judging by the passion which comes across.
-- Christopher Fifield, BBC Music Magazine
This is a one-of-a-kind recording of a strange work. The
lurid legend of Saint Sebastian, the beautiful young man who spurned the advances of Emperor Diocletian and was summarily tied to a tree and executed by a firing squad of archers, has attracted the more prurient attentions of artists for centuries. When Claude Debussy and writer Gabriele d'Annunzio decided to present the myth in a gigantic, five-hour multimedia extravaganza with singing, recitation, mime and dance, something weird was bound to happen. Two weeks before the premiere, the Vatican banned D'Annunzio's works, and the Archbishop of Paris forbid Catholics from attending. 'Le Martyre de Saint Sebastian' was a tremendous flop, has not been staged since and is only heard in various fragmentary forms which reveal some of Debussy's more interesting and forward-looking music. This disc contains an oratorio treatment with translation by Leonard Bernstein himself and the spoken part of the Saint taken by Bernstein's wife, Felicia Montealegre.
Works on This Recording
Le martyre de St Sébastien by Claude Debussy
Fritz Weaver (Spoken Vocals),
Adele Addison (Soprano),
Virginia Babikian (Soprano),
Marlena Kleinman (Mezzo Soprano),
Joanna Simon (Mezzo Soprano),
Felicia Montealegre (Spoken Vocals)
Choral Art Society,
New York Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1911; France
Date of Recording: 10/22/1962
Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC
Length: 75 Minutes 16 Secs.
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