Alexandre Desplat: Pelléas et Mélisande, symphony concertante for flute and orchestra

Duration : 20 minutes

The Orchestre National de France, alongside Emmanuel Pahud, performs the symphony concertante for flute and orchestra from Pelléas et Mélisande. Excerpt from the concert recorded live on 6 December 2018 at the Radio France Auditorium.

it is undoubtedly impossible to approach today Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande without being faced with the countless works that have drawn inspiration from the work's story throughout the 20th century; however, Alexandre Desplat chose precisely not to listen yet again to Debussy's opera, Fauré's stage music, Sibelius's orchestral suite, or Schoenberg's symphonic poem. For his own symphony concertante, the composer returned to the original drama which speaks of "a tragic love, very strong characters, a scary and brutal environment. As in the cinema, I imagined scenes and camera movements. "

A symphony concertante rather than a concerto, since the soloist is clearly part of the orchestration. A unique genre whose main instrument seems to remind the public that Alexandre Desplat himself, after having studied the piano and trumpet, was firstly a flutist: "It was not exactly what was intended, but I think it gave me a confidence that could have failed me in this type of challenge." The work represents "the culmination of more than twenty years of work". Not necessarily work on the piece itself, but reflection on the dramaturgy and the relationship between sound and image. His expression is proof of "a tighter and more brutal reading" akin to Maeterlinck, to ensure that the passion between the young lovers does not appear "too sweet, too insubstantial, or too evanescent."

The work possesses something both very touching and personal, emphasised not only by the dedication to his companion "à Solrey, ma voûte étoilée, éperdument" [to Solrey, my starry arch, passionately], but also by the fact that she had a profound influence upon the score. Solrey and Alexandre met during the recording of a soundtrack for a feature film; a violinist, she became muse, artistic director and member of the Traffic Quintet, regularly performing some of the most famous works of film music in concert. The work's introduction is particularly "fierce", with stacks of triplets at varying speeds, producing beautiful measurement and metric effects. The oboes are given haunting waves bringing to mind perhaps the return of Melisande and her husband to their island, as the sea gradually swells and widens over two octaves on the harp and the celesta, or in a broader sense the well in which falls the wedding ring, precipitating the fall of the most famous couple in Symbolist literature.

Concert by Alexandre Desplat "Au-delà de l'image", performed by the Orchestre National de France
Full concert
Concert by Alexandre Desplat "Au-delà de l'image", performed by the Orchestre National de France
Auditorium de la Maison de la Radio, Paris
All artists
  • Orchestre National de FranceOrchestra
  • Emmanuel PahudPerformer