“An enchanted dream” – these words from poet Charles Van Leberghe give an idea of the public’s enthusiasm for the first English language performance on June 21, 1898 of Maurice Maeterlinck’s symbolist play. Staged at the Prince of Wales Theatre, the play was translated by Jack W. Mackail with stage music composed by Gabriel Fauré. Occupied by various administrative tasks, the composer asked his favourite student, Charles Koechlin, to orchestrate the score in May 1898. The London theatre’s limited instrumental staff corresponded perfectly to the apprentice musician’s ideals of clarity and transparency.
Established by Roger Nichols and Otfrid Nies, this trilingual edition (French – English – German) is based on signed manuscripts, and distinguishes itself through a 60-page critical commentary that precisely retraces the birth of the work. The book presents for the first time the complete incidental music written for the London premiere of Pelléas et Mélisande, with the aim of staying true to Koechlin’s original annotated version. Koechlin’s orchestration is equal to the work: a model of clarity and refinement.