About this work
The Sicilienne is among Fauré's most familiar pieces; it began life as an orchestral sketch in March 1893, intended as incidental music for a revival of Molière's Le Bourgeois gentilhomme at Paul Porel's Eden-Théâtre. Left incomplete as that establishment went bankrupt, Fauré rounded it off and arranged it for cello and piano only in 1898, even as he passed the score along to his pupil Charles Koechlin to orchestrate as an item in the incidental music for a London production of Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande, where it introduces the scene at the beginning of Act Two, in which Mélisande's wedding ring slips from her finger and disappears into a well as she plays gently with Pelléas -- a use for which it seems predestined. In this form it was first heard with the play's opening at the Prince of Wales' Theatre on June 21, 1898, with Fauré conducting. Given its effectiveness, it was inevitable that Fauré should have included it among the four numbers of his Pelléas et Mélisande Suite, heard for the first time on December 1, 1912, conducted by André Messager. The common practice of publishers in issuing multiple arrangements of works likely to catch on -- for piano, or piano and solo instrument -- ensured that the Sicilienne's lilting wistfulness would become known around the world in the version for cello and piano, published in London by Metzler and Hamelle in Paris in 1898. Like a zephyr, the Sicilienne, with its hypnotically fluid melody carried, as it were, on waves of soothing arpeggiation, evokes a mood of mildly delirious nostalgia. If all music, as Vladimir Jankélévitch has remarked, is nostalgic in a certain manner, the Sicilienne is nostalgic music par excellence, for it embodies a truly existential, or perhaps mysterious, yearning for some undefined, imagined place, a Sicily in the luxuriant realm of dreams.