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Thursday evening in Sanders Theatre Koussevirky will conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the first time in several weeks. The program includes only three works, Beethoven's First Symphony, the Brahms Second Symphony, and Faure's Pelleas and Mclisande. The brief Faure work is liable to go unnoticed between the Beethoven and the Brahms--a treatment which it in no way deserves.
We are acquainted with Faure chiefly through his songs and the Requiem, but the Pelleas and Melisande suite is one of the most distinctive and beautiful of his works. The graciousness and reserve which characterize all his music might suggest a retiring personality in Faure himself, but in reality he was a potent force in the shaping of the nationalistic French school. As an influential figure in the various Parisian musical societies and in the Conservatoire, Faure was able to impress his distinctly French ideals on the young musicians of the time.
Of course, it is through his music that he exerts his greatest influence. In the harmonic and melodic inventions of Faure one can hear the subtlety and sensitiveness which characterize the music of all the French school.
Faure is essentially a song-writer--in fact it has been said that all his best works are songs, whether written for voice or not. Nevertheless, the Requiem and Pelleas and Melisande are enough in themselves to prove Faure's effectiveness in music for orchestral and choral groups. It is true that he often gives himself over to lyricism at the expense of formal considerations, but his ingenuity in harmony and melody is often sufficient, especially in smaller works, to overbalance his looseness in structure.
Pelleas and Melisande is a gentle flowing miniature in which Faure's lyricism and harmonic sense are at their best. It is entirely different from Debussy's opera on the same story, not only in size, but also in the fact that the original Faure work was only incidental music for the play. French economy of means and delicacy of expression are, however, essential characteristics of both compositions--and of all truly French music.
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