Ernest Fanelli: The Romance of the Mummy, Symphonic Tableaux

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Tableaux symphoniques d'après "Le Roman de la Momie" par Théophile Gautier (Symphonic Tableaux based on "The Romance of the Mummy" by Théophile Gautier) (1882-3, 1886)

Part I - Thèbes (Thebes)
1. Devant le palais de Tahoser (Before the Palace of Tahoser) [0:00]
2. Sur le Nil (On the Nile) [5:41]
3. Rentrée triomphale du Pharaon (The Triumphal Entry of the Pharaoh) [13:15]

Part II - Fête dans le palais du Pharaon (Festivity in the Pharaoh's Palace)
1. Dans une salle du palais - Jongleuses nues (In a Palace Chamber - The Naked Juggling Girls) [26:41]
2. Danse grotesque de bouffons égyptiens (Grotesque Dance of Egyptian Jesters) [31:22]
3. Chants triomphaux - Orgie (Triumphal Songs - Orgy) [38:37]

A large-scale orchestral work in two parts by French composer, percussionist and pianist Ernest Fanelli (1860-1917). The son of a Parisian bank clerk of Italian descent, Fanelli entered the Conservatoire de Paris to study music, but he was expelled soon after for refusing to attend class. For some time, he made his living as a timpanist and part-time pianist. Although the conservatory eventually readmitted him into the composition class of Léo Delibes, Fanelli did not have enough money to complete his studies and he went on to learn composition on his own. It wasn't until 1912 that the musical world became aware of this enigmatic and incredibly original composer, when Gabriel Pierné noticed a fascinating manuscript that the timpanist in his Orchestre Colonne had written. Fanelli had been begging Pierné for extra work as a copyist, and when he showed the conductor a sample of his neat musical handwriting, Pierné was surprised to see unorthodox impressionistic music, full of modal harmonies, polytonality, uneven metres and unusual ornamentation. When Pierné discovered that his timpanist had been composing such modern music nearly three decades earlier, he resolved to introduce Fanelli to the Parisian avant-garde and champion his music.

The 1912 premiere of the first part of the Tableaux symphoniques caused a minor scandal, since critics noted many similarities between Fanelli's musical idiom and the Debussian impressionism that it presaged. As Ravel said, pointing his finger at Debussy, "Now we know where his impressionism comes from." Naturally, Debussy did not take such accusations kindly. Ezra Pound recounted an anecdote about a dinner party where Debussy arrived just as Fanelli was playing one of his own compositions on the piano; as soon as he saw his rival, Debussy turned around and left. In reality, it is unlikely that Debussy ever encountered Fanelli's music prior to the sensational events of 1912, since Fanelli had been a very obscure figure in the Parisian artistic scene previously. And within a few years, after the First World War, the sensation wore off and he slipped back into musical obscurity, where he unfortunately remains to this day.

He began composing the first set of his Tableaux symphoniques in 1882, at the age of 22, completing the second set four years later. The work is based on the 1857 novel "Le Roman de la Momie" by Théophile Gautier, an Orientalist romance typical of its time. It tells of an English archaeologist who falls in love with a mummy when he discovers that it is a woman, instead of the Pharaoh he was expecting to find. Deciphering papyrus rolls from the same mausoleum, he learns of the history of the beautiful Tahoser, an Egyptian girl who fell in love with a Hebrew slave named Poëri. Upon learning that that Poëri loved another Hebrew woman named Rachel, Tahoser fell ill but was healed soon after by the mysterious prophet Mosché (Moses). When the Pharaoh (Ramses II) saw Tahoser, he decided that he must possess her. He managed to abduct the object of his desire and she became his favourite concubine. After the death of Ramses in the Red Sea - as described in the Book of Exodus - Tahoser was crowned Regent of Egypt, and that was why she was buried in the royal tomb.

Mezzo-soprano: Lydia Drahosova
Conductor: Adriano
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra