In 1905 Finnish iconic composer Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957) completed a nine movement orchestral suite as incidental music to the play, Pelléas et Mélisande. The 1892 play is by Belgian author and Nobel prize winner Maurice Maeterlinks [1862-1949]. It concerns a disastrous love triangle. It was very popular and inspired not only Sibelius but other contemporary composers such as Gabriel Fauré and Arnold Schoenberg. It was adapted as an opera by the composer Claude Debussy.
The first of Sibelius’s nine movements is titled ‘At the Castle Gate’ and for 50 years it served as the opening and closing theme music to the BBC’s television astronomy programme ‘The Sky At Night’. The programme ran for more than 700 episodes [the world’s longest running TV show] with every one of those episodes presented by the incomparable astronomer and TV presenter, Sir Patrick Moore. As a result the music is well known throughout the UK though sadly maybe not attributed to Sibelius. Listen to the dramatic music below – and think of Sibelius when you hear it on BBC TV.
And here’s the final episode of the BBC TV programme (and always with that dramatic Sibelius music) –
The whole of Sibelius’ Pelléas et Mélisande can be heard below [along with a helpful introduction when viewed in youtube]: