LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Tableaux symphoniques d’après Le roman de la momie
PERFORMER: Slovak RSO/Adriano
CATALOGUE NO: 8.225234
Here’s a remarkable discovery. In most standard histories of French music, Ernest Fanelli (1860-1917) doesn’t even get a worthy mention in a footnote. Yet listening to the extraordinarily advanced musical style explored in the two Tableaux symphoniques, based on Théophile Gautier’s Romance of the Mummy, makes one wonder why he enjoyed only a very brief moment of exposure just before the First World War. Although this music was in fact composed between 1883 and 1886, many of its characteristic fingerprints point to a much later period.
Not surprisingly, Fanelli’s extensive use of whole-tone harmonies and his exploitation of Oriental languor suggest that he was a Debussyist some years before the great composer had established his own distinctive identity. The astonishing washes of colour and chromatic augmented triads that open the Second Tableau even anticipate a late work such as Jeux. Other daring features include the use of an off-stage mezzo-soprano solo, utilised later in Schmitt’s ballet Le tragédie de Salomé, an orgiastic march that sounds as if it could have been written by Respighi, and the asymmetric rhythmic patterns of the ‘Danse grotesque’ which seem to foreshadow Satie, Stravinsky and Bartók.
Whether all these fascinating elements gel into an entirely convincing composition is a moot point. Nonetheless, the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra copes effectively with many of the score’s technical difficulties, and offers far more sophisticated playing than in the rather bombastic and forgettable Rhapsodie cambodgienne of Bourgault-Ducoudray. Erik Levi