Today for Classical Sunday, I popped onto YouTube and checked my feed’s “orchestral” tab. While today’s selection of a piano and cello duo isn’t exactly orchestral, I still appreciated the discovery.
As I listened to the Meditation from Act II of the opera Thais by French Romantic era composer Jules Massenet (1842-1912), I realized I knew the piece, just not by name. The Meditation is a famous piece of music, often played independently of the opera.
The opera premiered in Paris, France, in 1894. Set in Roman-ruled Egypt, it tells the story of a monk who tries to convert Thais, a courtesan in Alexandria and pure-hearted worshipper of the goddess Venus, into Christianity. The monk later realizes his fixation with Thais is because of lust. (So much for faithful service for the good of others!)
The Meditation is a symphonic intermezzo, basically meaning it is a piece of music that stands alone between other movements (or acts, in the case of an opera). Massenet composed it for violin and orchestral (so, I guess YouTube was right, sort of), and it has been transcribed for various instruments. Today’s version was based on an arrangement for violin and piano by the Belgian violinist, teacher and composer Martin Marsick (1847-1924) that the Soviet-born Israeli cellist Mischa Maisky (b. 1948) adapted for cello and piano. (He also plays the cello in the video I’m featuring today.)
Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.
Please enjoy the music video from the Yellow Lounge series by the German record label Deutsche Grammophon, featuring cellist Maisky and German-Japanese pianist Alice Sara Ott (b. 1988) playing in a beautiful, dreamy space within the TeamLab Borderless collective’s MORI Building Digital Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan, in 2018:
What did you think of the piece? Did you recognize the music? Drop me a note in the comments, or just stop in and say, “hi!”
With my best wishes,
2 thoughts on “Thaïs, Act II: Méditation”
I wonder how the artists here feel when they produce such beauty. I don’t recall any stories that centre around their lives – at least not recent ones – were they self centred? Extroverts? Murderers? Despots?
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Those are good questions, Bill. As for how they feel, I imagine there much be great satisfaction in creating something and sharing it with the world. As for stories of lives… well that would make for a lot more research and longer posts. Maybe I’ll stick to the music! 😉