Monday, February 22, 2016

Special late-Monday "Better Call Saul" edition: Chuck McGill plays the Fauré "Sicilienne"!

Sure enough, there's a piano in Chuck McGill's living room! Given the light level, don't hold me to it, but isn't this Howard (Patrick Fabian), the managing partner of Chuck's law firm, arriving for his "delivery for McGill" in tonight's Better Call Saul episode, "Cobbler"?

by Ken

If there's one thing probably none of us expected to see, it was Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) at the piano playing the piano part of Fauré's Sicilienne. But there it was, at the top of tonight's Better Call Saul episode, with something like this score page just visible to Chuck, and to us, with the little bit of natural light that found its way into his otherwise-dark living room -- Chuck can't, of course, have electric light.

Krzysztof Smietana, violin; John Blakely, piano. Meridian, recorded c1993?


In other words, what we see and hear above. But what Fauré actually produced when he repurposed the Sicilienne he'd written originally -- but apparently not used -- as incidental music for Molière's Le bourgeois gentilhomme was a version for cello and piano.
The siciliana [sitʃiˈljaːna] or siciliano [sitʃiˈljaːno] (also known as the sicilienne [sisiljɛn]) is a musical style or genre often included as a movement within larger pieces of music starting in the Baroque period. It is in a slow 6/8 or 12/8 time with lilting rhythms, making it somewhat resemble a slow jig or tarantella, and is usually in a minor key. It was used for arias in Baroque operas, and often appears as a movement in instrumental works. Loosely associated with Sicily, the siciliana evokes a pastoral mood, and is often characterized by dotted rhythms that can distinguish it within the broader musical genre of the pastorale.

Siciliana rhythms

FAURÉ: Sicilienne for cello and piano, Op. 78

Steven Doane, cello; Barry Snyder, piano. Bridge, recorded in Rochester (NY), January 1992

Fauré also incorporated the Sicilienne into incidental music he wrote for Maurice Maeterlinck's Pelléas et Mélisande (yes, the same play from which Debussy made his great opera, which also attracted the musical attention of Arnold Schoenberg and Jean Sibelius, among others). The Sicilienne was one of four movements Fauré fashioned from his Pelléas incidental music into the orchestral suite published as Op. 80.

FAURÉ: Pelléas et Mélisande: Suite from the incidental music, Op. 80: iii. Sicilienne

Orchestre de Paris, Serge Baudo, cond. EMI, recorded June 1969

Now, the Sicilienne has been arranged for just about every instrument you can imagine, but you'll note that in the incidental-music version the solo instrument is indeed the flute -- and the accompanying instrument is the harp. Not surprisingly, the piece has gotten a lot of play as a flute-harp duo.

Olga Zmanovskaya, flute, and Elizaveta Bushueva, harp

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