Ravel's first major orchestral work, Rhapsodie espagnole (1907), underlines his immense talent as a painter: his Prélude à la nuit reproduces an infinite series of notes that dissolve into a bewitching backdrop. With Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1915), we venture further afield into Iberian lands. De Falla puts exuberant orchestral splendour at the disposal of what he called "musical impressions".
Here we reach the focal point of our season, whose theme is inspired by Schönberg's string sextet. Based on a poem by Richard Dehmel, the composer invites us to a rendezvous in the cold night of a bare forest, where we witness a scene between two lovers: a woman confesses to a man that she is expecting a child that is not his, and both of them flirt with the mystery of existence. A few years and two string quartets later, Schönberg will tip the 20th century into atonality. Transfiguration of night into day, transfiguration from minor to major, transfiguration of poetry through pure music, Transfigured Night remains for the time being on the shores of Romanticism. But its deadly beauty already heralds the forthcoming demise of tonality and the promise of unknown lands.
"Drowning, sinking, losing consciousness... ": the same feeling of dissolving away, the same feeling of abandonment in the final act of Tristan and Isolde (1865). Deep down, don't some of us sense - in the famous "Tristan chord" which opens Wagner's opera - this farewell to tonality? The torments of reality fade away as Isolde dies of love and joins the immense breath of the world. And the music becomes like the transfigured body of the lover in plastic artist Bill Viola's installation: a thousand drops of rain rising heavenwards.
Lorraine National Opera Orchestra
Arnold Schönberg Transfigured Night, opus 4
Manuel de Falla Nights in the gardens of Spain
Richard Wagner Tristan et Isolde, Prelude and Death of Isolde