A while ago, I listened to my first Sibelius piece in the form of his patriotic Finlandia. He has plenty of other pieces of the list, which just by name go to show how much of a thematic outlier it is.
Interestingly, Pelléas et Mélisande Suite is actually incidental music written by Sibelius to be played alongside the performances of the Swedish translation of the play of the same name. This was later taken and slightly expanded on to make this suite, but the piece maintains the same structure of nine tracks that correspond to different parts of the play. Incidental music is something that Sibelius did a fair bit of, but this is the only example on the classical list.
What I really appreciated in this piece was the very large woodwind section. There are some strings and a drum, but the predominant family of instruments was woodwind. It’s only really hit me that there was no piano, which does make for a refreshing change of pace. I loved that this piece also had a very pastoral feeling, similar to the feeling that Mahler gave me a month ago.
I have no context for what the play was actually about, but I don’t feel that I need it. The piece stands wry well in its own right and makes me look forward to all the other Sibelius pieces, most of them tone poems to come.