Claude Debussy’s “The Sunken Cathedral” is based on a myth involving, well, a sunken cathedral off the coast of Brittany. The beautiful princess of a prosperous coastal town named Ys had an affair either with Satan or one of his many lieutenants on earth (as beautiful princesses tend to do). As punishment, the town was destroyed by sinking into the sea along with most inhabitants. Local legend held that on certain days you could hear the bells of the cathedral of Ys ringing from below. On other days, it was believed to rise briefly to the surface. Debussy begins by representing both waves and the ringing of the cathedral bells. As the cathedral rises, chanting monks and priests emerge, culminating with the great organ at 2:25: a brief emergence of a grand, underwater zombie Mass of the damned. Then it all sinks again until we just hear the bells. Near the end, the great organ melody makes a muted reappearance from the murky depths.
Beautifully creepy stuff here, with the obsessively perfect Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli looking like he’s playing this from deep within his castle in Transylvania. (He actually never lived in a castle in Transylvania, but for a while he did live in one near Brescia).