The Martyrdom of St Sebastian
This month's BBC Music Magazine has an excellent cover disc of Debussy's Martyrdom of St Sebastian, recorded last October at the Hoddinot Hall with the National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales under Thierry Fischer, with Elisabeth Atherton Jennifer Johnston and Tove Dahlberg as soloists.
This is a new edition of the work, first published in 2009.
I don't know it very well, but I do have the version with the LSO and Michael Tilson Thomas, so I decided to follow the text on his CD, as the BBC has no translation.
It proved to be difficult, as the BBC version has much more spoken French text delivered by Irene Jacob, and I soon found myself getting lost.The narrator on the Tilson Thomas is no less than Leslie Caron, but she has much less to do.
You can get a copy of the English translation from the BBC MM website, but it doesn't seem to be in a printable form, although I have not yet registered on the site.
Considering that it would not be too difficult to include it in the magazine itself.
I'm not an expert judge of the music, but it seems to me to beautifully performed with notable contributions from the soloists and choir, and the recording is superb, which makes the lack of text even more irritating. This is a botched opportunity, because this is the first recording of as complete a version of Debussy's music as we are likely to hear.
Oh dear, Ferret, a botched opportunity as you say.
I know nothing about the piece other than what you have written hear AND I know I've heard a perfoermance conducted by Guido Cantelli in the dim & distant but it obviously didn't make much of an impressiom
I'll buy the BBC MM to get the CD in the hope that someone comes up with a solution to the problems that you outline
Later: Well stap me vitals! A translation here by Rebecca Franks ....
amateur51, could that have been Cantelli conducting the Philharmonia, recorded somewhere back in the 1950s mono era? If so, it will have been a mono HMV disc coupled with La Mer. All you get is the orchestral suite derived from Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien, with no singing, which might be a reason it hasnt left much of an impression (nor much of one on me, its on my shelf so I must have played it, but I cant remember anything about it).
I also have an old mono Decca LP dating from 1955, with the OSR conducted by Ansermet and three soloists: Suzanne Danco, Nancy Waugh and Marie-Lise de Montmollin. This version is described as 'Incidental music to the mystery play of Gabrielle d'Annunzio).
Finally I have a stereo version from CBS, dated 1960, with the Philadelphia O. conducted by Ormandy. This is much longer, it fills four LP sides and you get a speaking part (Vera Zorina) and three singers: Hilda Gueden, Ethelwyn Whitmore and Natalie Moeckel.
It seems from the sleevenotes that the Catholic Church dumped on d'Annunzio from a great height by putting all his works on the Index Expurgatorius (blimey ... still this is the church that ran the Inquisition) and threatened that any catholic who attended the premiere would be excommunicated. Quite a few subscribers cancelled, but apparently the 1911 premiere was still well attended. To quote the sleeve note of the CBS recording:
"The reviews were mixed. The work as a whole was seen, variously, as a practical joke, a sacrilege, a mask for sensual opportunism, a Debussyian Parsifal, a d'Annunzian Salome."
Something for everyone, really. But apparently after ten performances it was dropped.
Another interesting fact I didnt know is that d'Annunzio was introduced to Ida Rubinstein, who took the role of Sebastien, by a friend of Sarah Bernhardt, the Count de Montesquiou: Marcel Proust's Baron Charlus. Montesquiou inspired Huysman to portray him in A Rebours as the luxurious, perverse duke Jean d'Esseintes, who in turn influenced Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray.
D'Annunzio is reported to have said of Ida Rubinstein "I will take revenge for the feminine sex. Ida Rubinstein will play Sebastien. Tall, slender and flat-chested, she is absolutely perfect for this role. Where could I find a male actor whose body is so ethereal?"
Well, that's quite enough fin de siecle fun for one afternoon.
Thanks for pointing us to the translation Ams. I haven't unwrapped my CD yet.Sounds like 'Bluebeard's Castle', another work that I struggled with for a bit. Later perhaps..........
Actually Debussy's music in the orchestral interludes sounds surprisingly akin to Sibelius 4 to my ears - with which it is btw contemporaneous - but I have never heard its choral sections, which, I have been told, are pastiche Palestrina in style, and disappointingly at variance - would that be right?
Originally Posted by salymap
Thanks for the link, which I had already checked out, but the problem is, how do you print it economically. I suppose I'll have to register with the site, but as I already get emails as a subscriber I shouldn't really need to!
Try copy and paste into Word. I'll send you a PM.
Me again! I've now registered on the BBC MM site with considerable difficulty, but in order to print the Debussy text, you still have to print 6 pages which include stuff you don't want. I've now done so, and will get to work cutting it down to a manageable size to go into a CD case, but none of this should be necessary, should it? Also, they only publish the English translation, I'll still have to read the French with the notes from the Tilson Thomas recording.
Just copy the text (select, ctrl+c) and paste on Word. If you spend a bit of time and tidy up the paragraphs, it'll save you quite abit of paper too.
[ed] PJPJ's got in first.
Check your inbox - I've sent you text only in various formats and hope at least one will be useful.