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Pelleas Et Melisande

Pelleas Et Melisande

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This new OSR recording presents the two most ambitious musical responses to Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1893 epoch-making play Pelléas et Mélisande. Conductor Jonathan Nott has created a new suite of Debussy’s opera, which is much more extensive, and focuses more on the actual drama and symphonic development than existing suites that rely heavily on Debussy’s interludes. Schoenberg’s Pelléas und Melisande is often perceived as relatively “amorphous”, its narrative structure obscure, leaving concealed all but the most explicit references to the drama on which Schoenberg based it. In this recording, Jonathan Nott introduces a novel track division and analytical track titles that make the music’s relation to the story much more tangible to the listener. Programming it next to the music of Debussy’s opera allows us to compare both works, and to see how the most important innovators of turn-of-the-century music responded to this haunting, Symbolist story. The arrangement of Debussy’s music on this recording is the work of Jonathan Nott.


For many listeners, conductor Jonathan Nott's new version of Debussy's work will be reason enough to check this album out. While his task was a difficult one, the results give a feel for the flow of the opera. But there's more. Nott has configured the track divisions and track titles of Schoenberg's single-movement Pelleas und Melisande in a novel way. In part, he seems to have relied on Alban Berg's analysis of the work as a combination of four-movement sonata form and the Wagnerian leitmotif technique, and the track titles, Nott's own, reflect this. One might debate what has been done in the cases of both Debussy and Schoenberg, but there's no debating the value of his effort; comparing the Debussy and the Schoenberg side by side is fascinating. Nott further emphasizes the direct comparison with his relatively straightforward performances of the two works, avoiding operatic gestures in the Debussy, and the venerable Swiss orchestra follows him well through unfamiliar interpretations. This is highly recommended for aficionados of the early 20th century.

-- (James Manheim)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 2
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Pentatone Music
    • UPC/Barcode: 827949078262
    • Item Number: PTC5186782