Jules Massenet: Meditation
Used as an instrumental en’tract between scenes in Act II of Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs, Meditation has since become a popular concert piece for violinists around the world. The piece reflects Thaïs, a beautiful courtesan, reflecting on big decisions that are coming their way. The orchestra and solo violin then play Meditation as a segue into the next scene.
Marked ‘Andante religioso’, the delicate opening to Meditation is started by sustained strings and the harps. As the soloist enters the accompaniment remains stable, albeit bare. Set in D major, the piece stays largely in this key throughout, which means no big harmonic surprises so one can focus on the beauty of the piece. As the piece goes on and as the violin plays the theme more times, the music becomes more passionate. This happens as Massenet writes ‘Poco a Poco Appassionato’ in the central section.
Rich strings gather more sound to support the soloist, with the harps still plucking away with their opening motif. It is in this central section that the climax flourishes, with the orchestra uniting with the soloist. Once over, the music moves back to the opening melody, which is played a notch louder by the soloist. A short cadenza-like section brings the focus back onto the violin. As the piece begins to prepare for the end, the orchestra plays their main theme once more, with the violin soloist playing harmonics in their upper register. This effect gives an ethereal feel to the music as this meditative piece comes to its poignant close.
Ⓒ Alex Burns