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»Pelleas und Melisande op. 5«. Symphonische Dichtung für Orchester [Pelleas and Melisande, symphonic poem for orchestra] op. 5

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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] 

DATE: Juli 1902 (Abschluß der verschollenen Ersten Niederschrift: Ende Juli 1902), 28. Februar 1903 (Datierung am Ende der Partiturreinschrift)

DURATION: ca. 40 Min.

FIRST PERFORMANCE: 25. Januar 1905, Wien, Großer Musikvereins-Saal (Orchester des Wiener Konzertvereines; Dir. Arnold Schönberg)

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

Universal Edition UE 14408 (Studienpartitur)

“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). Only in early 1902 did Schönberg, who was engaged as music director of the literary "Überbrettl" Cabaret at Ernst von Wolzogen's "Buntes Theater" [Colorful Theater] in Berlin, meet Richard Strauss face-to-face (Wolzogen had written the libretto to Strauss' opera, "Feuersnot").
Schönberg's first sketches based on Maeterlinck's drama, "Pelleas and Melisande", which Strauss had recommended to his young colleague as material for an opera, 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

Ich komponierte die symphonische Dichtung Pelleas und Melisande 1902. Sie ist ganz und gar von Maurice Maeterlincks wundervollen Drama inspiriert. Abgesehen von nur wenigen Auslassungen und geringfügigen Veränderungen in der Reihenfolge der Szenen, versuchte ich jede Einzelheit widerzuspiegeln. Vielleicht ist, wie es in der Musik so oft geschieht, den Liebesszenen mehr Raum gewidmet.

Die drei Hauptpersonen werden durch Themen in der Art Wagnerscher Leitmotive dargstellt, nur nicht so kurz. Melisande wird in ihrer Hilflosigkeit gezeichnet durch

das viele Veränderungen durchgemacht als Antwort auf die wechselnde Stimmungen. Golaud wird durch ein Thema dargstellt, das zuerst in den Hörnern erscheint.

Später wird es oft verwandelt, zum Beispiel in

Pelleas steht dazu in deutlichen Gegensatz durch den jugendlichen und ritterlichen Charakter seines Motivs.

Die beiden Harmonien in Beispiel 5 und ein kurzes Motiv

das zum ersten Mal ganz am Anfang erscheint, sind dazu bestimmt, das »Schicksal« darzustellen. Dieses Motiv erscheint in vielen Umformungen. Melisandes Spiel mit dem Ring, der auf den Grund des Brunnens fällt, wird in einem Scherzo-Teil ausgedrückt.
Golauds Eifersucht ist gezeichnet:

Die Szene, in der Melisande ihr Haar aus dem Fenster hängen lässt ist ausführlich geschildert. Der Abschnitt beginnt mit Flöten und Klarinetten, die sich einander in kurzem Abstand imitieren. Später treffen die Harfen hinzu, Soloviolinen spielen Melisandes Motiv, das Solocello spielt Pelleas' Thema. Geteilte hohe Streicher und Harfen spielen weiter.

Als Golaud Pelleas zu den furchterregenden unterirdischen Gräbern führt, wird ein musikalischer Klang hervorgebracht, der in vieler Hinsicht bemerkenswert ist, aber vor allem deshalb, weil hier zum ersten Mal in der Musikliteratur ein bisher unbekannter Effekt gebraucht ist: Posaunen-Glissando.

Die Liebesszene beginnt mit einer langen Melodie:

Ein neues Motiv erscheint in der Todesszene.

Der Eintritt des Dieners als Vorahnung von Melisandes Tod wird durch ein choralartiges Thema in Trompete und Posaune widergespiegelt, das mit einer Gegenmelodie kombiniert ist.

Die Uraufführung 1905 in Wien unter meiner eigenen Leitung rief große Unruhe beim Publikum und selbst bei den Kritikern hervor. Die Kritiken waren ungewöhnlich heftig, und einer der Kritiker schlug vor, mich in eine Irrenanstalt zu stecken und Notenpapier außerhalb meiner Reichweite aufzubewahren. Erst sechs Jahre später unter Oskar Frieds Leitung wurde Pelleas und Melisande ein großer Erfolg und hat seither bei den Zuhörern keinen Ärger mehr verursacht.

Arnold Schönberg: Stil und Gedanken. Aufsätze zur Musik. Herausgegeben von Ivan Vojtech. Frankfurt am Main 1976. p. 437-439. (Gesammelte Schriften. 1)