Arnold Schoenberg – Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5
This is one of Schoenberg’s early tonal works (completed in 1903); a symphonic poem based on the play by Maurice Maeterlinck, a contemporary dramatist.
The piece starts off by setting a very mysterious mood, in a minor key and using some very low pitched instruments (possibly the bassoon?). Moments of silence also add to the mysterious effect.
Then the tension gradually builds up along with the texture (more and more instrumental lines being added in) as well as dynamics. There doesn’t seem to be one clear melody, and the music also is generally rising in pitch.
Then a sudden change of mood, and the next section sounds quite Elgar-esque to me – the melodies are in the strings and the whole orchestra is in use, including a harp.
A change of mood again – now tremelos in the strings followed by a big crescendo. Some solo lines can be heard e.g. on the violin. It ends very suddenly and unexpectedly after a crescendo and accelerando, representing the death of the character Melisande in the play.