Maurice Maeterlinck, 1862-1949

August 29, 1862 – Birthdate of Maurice Maeterlinck, Belgian poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1949)

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911 “in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers’ own feelings and stimulate their imaginations”. The main themes in his work are death and the meaning of life. His plays form an important part of the Symbolist movement.  Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style originates with the 1857 publication of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal.

Maeterlinck’s plays inspired a large body of musical compositions.  Here is just a sampling based on his play Pelleas and Melisande:

1897: a suite for orchestra by William Wallace: Pelleas and Melisande

1898: an orchestral suite (sometimes described as incidental music) by Gabriel Fauré See: Pelléas et Mélisande (Fauré) (Op. 80)

1893-1902: an opera by Claude Debussy (L. 88, Paris), see Pelléas et Mélisande (opera)

1902-1903: a symphonic poem by Arnold Schoenberg (Op. 5)

1905: incidental music by Jean Sibelius (Op. 46), see Pelléas et Mélisande (Sibelius)

The postage stamp shown here was issued in 1952 by Bpost – the postal authority of Belgium.

maurice maeterlinck

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