Anfang

Heftig

Lebhaft [9]

Sehr rasch [16]

Ein wenig bewegt [33]

Langsam [36]

Ein wenig bewegter [43]

Sehr langsam [50] 

Etwas bewegt [55]

In gehender Bewegung [59] 

Breit [62] 

>>> sources

DURATION: ca. 40 Min.

VERSIONS:
Fassung für großes Orchester (1911)
revidierte Neuausgabe (1920)

PUBLISHER:
Universal Edition
Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Kanada, Mexico)

Anfang

Heftig

Lebhaft [9]

Sehr rasch [16]

Ein wenig bewegt [33]

Langsam [36]

Ein wenig bewegter [43]

Sehr langsam [50] 

Etwas bewegt [55]

In gehender Bewegung [59] 

Breit [62] 

>>> sources

DURATION: ca. 40 Min.

VERSIONS:
Fassung für großes Orchester (1911)
revidierte Neuausgabe (1920)

PUBLISHER:
Universal Edition
Belmont Music Publishers (USA, Kanada, Mexico)

Introduction

“I composed the symphonic poem ‘PELLEAS AND MELISANDE’ IN 1902. It is, in every respect, inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck’s wonderful drama. I tried, with the exception of just a few omissions and minor changes in the order of the scenes, to reflect every single detail. I did perhaps, as it often happens in music, give the love scenes a bit more space.“ (Arnold Schönberg, program notes for a radio broadcast of “Pelleas and Melisande”, 1949). Schönberg's (post)romantic affinity for programmatic music coincides with the zenith of a type of work, which had been defined in all its significant aspects by Richard Strauss in the late nineteenth century. The performances of the symphonic poems “Ein Heldenleben”, “Also sprach Zarathustra”, “Tod und Verklärung” and “Don Juan” (conducted by Gustav Mahler, Hans Richter and Strauss himself) had, since 1892, been objects of public interest and controversial discussion in Viennese concert life. Among the close associates of Alexander von Zemlinsky – who, like his student Arnold Schönberg, was a declared Brahmsian – these musical encounters led to an artistic re-orientation and a serious, composer’s interest in this subject-oriented programmatic music: “Mahler and Strauss had burst onto the musical scene, and their appearances were so fascinating, that every musician was immediately forced to take sides, for or against. As I was only 23 years old at the time, I quickly got fired up and set about composing one-movement, uninterrupted symphonic poems on the scale of the models provided by Mahler and Strauss.” The string sextet “Transfigured Night”, composed in 1899, had been preceded by the fragmentary studies, “Toter Winkel” (also conceived of as a string sextet, after a text of Gustav Falke), “Frühlingstod” (a symphonic poem after Nikolaus Lenau) and “Hans im Glück” (the brothers Grimm).
Schönberg's first sketches based on Maeterlinck's drama, "Pelleas and Melisande" date from 1902. At the time he composed this work, which was finished in February of 1903, Schönberg had no knowledge of Gabriel Fauré's "Pelleas" theater music or Claude Debussy's opera, "Pelléas et Mélisande", which was premiered in Paris on April 30th, 1902. "I had originally thought of setting "Pelleas and Melisande" as an opera, but gave up on this plan later - although I did not know that Debussy was working on his opera at the same time. I still regret not having realized my original intention. The wonderful aura of that drama might not have been caught to quite the same extent, but I would certainly have brought the characters to life more lyrically." Before the premiere, conducted by the composer, on January 25th, 1905, in the main hall of the Musikverein - "one of the critics recommended sticking me in an insane asylum, and storing all music paper well out of my reach" (1949) - Schönberg discussed his score with Gustav Mahler, to whom it "seemed to be enormously complicated".
Maeterlinck's five-act "Pelleas" drama follows a chain of situations, which line up in associative fashion artificial encounters, as heavily symbolic depictions of mood and space. Schönberg concentrates his interpretation - which takes the form of a one-movement symphonic poem with an inner, latent multi-movement structure (whereby the concepts of sonata movement and sonata cycle are intertwined) - on the characters Golo, Melisande and Pelleas, and their fateful relationship in an indefinite, placeless and timeless world, in which physical contact is tacitly implied and not concrete. The post-romantic musical gestures of the grandly dimensioned orchestra are, as Alban Berg ascertains in an analysis, never "purely descriptive," but are oriented on the aesthetic concept of seeing the subject not as the content, but as a prerequisite for the music. Thematic thoughts, characteristic to individual scenes or persons, form - comparable to dramatic leitmotivs - the building-blocks of a symphonic development, which has its beginning in the forest scene introducing the first movement (Golo meets Melisande, they marry), and continues on through the inner segments Scherzo (scene at the fountain, Melisande loses her wedding ring, encounter with Golo's half-brother Pelleas) and Adagio (farewell and love scene of Pelleas and Melisande, Golo kills Pelleas), leading finally to the recapitulation of the thematic material in the Finale (death of Melisande). In a letter to his brother-in-law, Alexander Zemlinsky, who wanted to make cuts in "Pelleas" for a Prague performance he was to conduct in 1918, Schönberg summarized the fundamental anchoring points of his Opus 5: "the opening motif (12/8) is linked to Melisande", this is followed by the "fate motif", the Scherzo contains "the game with the ring", the Adagio the "scene with Melisande's Hair", and the "love scene; […] the dying Melisande" and "entrance of the ladies in waiting, Melisande's death" in the finale.
Under the impression of the Anthony Tudor's ballet version of his "Transfigured Night", which premiered in 1942 in New York, as "Pillar of Fire", Schönberg, in American exile, decided for commercial reasons to modify and arrange the "Pelleas" score for ballet as well, by expanding (and simultaneously reducing) the one-movement symphonic poem into a multi-movement suite. Schönberg first spoke of this "bloody operation" in early 1947, in a letter to his son-in-law Felix Greissle: "What was decisive for me, was that this music, which I consider to be far more progressive than the Gurrelieder and Transfigured Night, which is at least as beautiful […] will, above all because of its length and the gigantic orchestra required, never be performed. I've planned, therefore, to really re-orchestrate it (while preserving the original form), but to chop it up into a suite of 4-5 movements lasting around 7-10 minutes each." The project collapsed due to Associated Music Publishers, who represented the Vienna's Universal Edition in the US - by handling issue with exceptional bureaucratic élan, they managed to successfully prevent authorization.

Therese Muxeneder
© Salzburger Festspiele

Analysis (1949)

Arnold Schönberg: »Analysis of Pelleas und Melisande«

I composed the symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande in 1902. It is inspired entirely by Maurice Maeterlinck’s wonderful drama. I tried to mirror every detail of it, with only a few omissions and slight changes of the order of the scenes. Perhaps, as frequently happens in music, there is more space devoted to the love scenes.

The three main characters are presented by themes, in the manner of Wagnerian leitmotifs, except that they are not as short. Melisande in her helplessness is pictured by

which undergoes many changes in response to various moods. Golaud is pictured by a theme which first appears in the horns

Later, this is often transformed, for instance

Pelleas is contrasted distinctly by the youthful and knightly character of his motif,

The two harmonies in Ex. 5 and a short motif Ex. 6,

which first appears in the beginning, are designed to represent the “destiny.” This motif appears in many transformations. Melisande’s playing with the ring which falls to the bottom of the fountain is expressed in a Scherzo-section.
Golaud’s jealousy is pictured:

The scene where Melisande lets her hair hang out of the window is richly illustrated. The section begins with flutes and clarinets, closely imitating one another. Later harps participate, solo violins play Melisande’s motive, and the solo cello plays the Pelleas theme. Divided high strings and harps continue.

When Golaud leads Pelleas to the frightening subterranean tombs, a musical sound is produced which is remarkable in many respects, but especially because here for the first time in musical literature is used a hitherto unknown effect: a glissando of the trombones

The love scene begins with a long melody,

A new motif appears in the death scene,

The entrance of the servants as a premonition of the death of Melisande is mirrored by a chorale-like theme in trumpet and trombone, combined with a countermelody in flutes and piccolos,

The first performance, 1905 in Vienna, under my own direction, provoked great riots among the audience and even the critics. Reviews were unusually violent and one of the critics suggested putting me in an asylum and keeping music paper out of my reach. Only six years later under Oskar Fried’s direction it became a great success, and since that time, has not caused the anger of the audience.

Liner Notes for the Capitol Records Release of Pelleas und Melisande (1949)