Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande Suite & Schoenberg: Pelléas und Mélisande, Op. 5 by Orchestre de la Suisse Romande & Jonathan Nott

The love story of Pelléas and Mélisande is the classic story of wife, husband and lover. While it’s full of drama and everyone important dies in the end, Maeterlinck’s play has had a lasting impact upon the musical world. Claude Debussy’s opera was plagued with issues, from Maeterlinck’s quarrels through to venue shortcomings. However, this five-act opera is still loved today, and this new suite arranged by conductor Jonathan Nott is full of the lyrical themes and beauty of the original opera itself. The original play was constantly preoccupied with motifs of water and death. Here, the slippery nature of the harmony and melodic lines, combined with a constant undertow of darkness, brings these two ideas to the fore.

While Debussy was meticulously composing his opera, Schoenberg was working on his own symphonic poem based on the same story. Richard Strauss suggested it to Schoenberg as a good source for inspiration, and Schoenberg seems to have grabbed it with both hands. It is a delight to have both works side by side on this album to compare not just musical ideas, but those fleeting and ephemeral ideas of life, love, death and the eternal search for happiness. The Orchestre de la Suisse Romande are truly luscious in their interpretation and elegantly balance the light and dark of both composers’ styles.

Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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Cover image for Debussy: Pelleas et Melisande Suite & Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5

Debussy: Pelleas et Melisande Suite & Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Jonathan Nott

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