Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Classics: Still more "Impressions of Debussy"


The beautiful Scottish soprano Mary Garden, chosen by Debussy to be the first Mélisande in 1902, sings the solo from the Tower Scene that opens Act III of Pelléas et Mélisande in this famous (if sadly limited technically) 1904 G&T recording with the composer at the piano.
Outside one of the castle towers. A circular path passes under a window of the tower.

MÉLISANDE [at the window, while she combs her unbound hair]: My long hair descends all the way to the foot of the tower.
My hair waits for you all the length of the tower.
And all the length of the day,
And all the length of the day.
Saint Daniel and Saint Michel,
Saint Michel and Saint Raphaël,
I was born on a Sunday,
a Sunday at noon . . .
And here, in a slightly better-sounding recording, is the treasured Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão. Unfortunately, the brief orchestral introduction is missing in the CD issue. We continue then just through the entrance of Pelléas, singing "Holà! Holà! Ho," prompting Mélisande to ask, "Who's there?" (We'll hear more of this scene in the click-through.)

Bidú Sayão (s), Mélisande; Martial Singher (b), Pelléas; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Emil Cooper, cond. Live performance, Jan. 13, 1945

by Ken

Just to recap: Last week we began listening to some of the works signaled by nine musicians asked by BBC Music Magazine -- for its February 2012 issue celebrating Debussy's 150th birthday -- to reveal the work of the composer which is most personal to them.

Last week we heard first, in the preview, the piano classic "Clair de lune, chosen by mezzo-soprano Susan Graham (who explained that she began her musical studies as a pianist and still is wont to play it for her own pleasure in her home in the hills of Santa Fe); and then the early piano Arabesques, cited by editor Oliver Condy; the piano Image "Reflections in the Water," chosen by pianist Noriko Ogawa; the piano prélude "La Cathédrale engloutie" ("The Submerged Cathedral", chosen by pianist Steven Osborne; and the last of the three orchestral Images, Rondes de printemps, chosen by composer Colin Matthews.

Today we have Debussy's last completed orchestral work, the "danced poem" Jeux; one of the three late sonatas composed as part of a projected six "sonatas for diverse instruments"; and, as promised in Friday night's preview, a taste of his only full-length opera, Pelléas et Mélisande.


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