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8.553278 - BIZET: Symphony in C Major / L'Arlesienne / Jeux d'Enfants
Georges Bizet (1838 - 1875)
Symphony in C major
Georges Bizet was born in Paris in 1838, the son of a singing-teacher. He entered the Conservatoire at the age of ten and even in childhood had some lessons, at least, from Charles Gounod, and later became a pupil of Fromental Halevy, a prolific composer of opera, whose daughter, subject like her mother to intermittent bouts of mental instability, he married in 1869. Ludovic Halevy, a cousin, collaborated on the libretto for Carmen. As a student Bizet won the expected successes, culminating in 1857 in the first prize in the Prix de Rome, followed by three years at the Villa Medici, in accordance with the terms of the award, modified to allow him to remain in Rome for the final year, rather than move to Germany. In Paris, where he returned in September 1860 on receiving news of his mother's illness, he earned a living by hack-work for the theatre and for publishers, interspersed with more ambitious undertakings, including Les pêcheurs des perles (The Pearl-Fishers), staged with moderate success at the opera-Comique in 1863, followed, in 1867, by La jolie fille de Perth at the Théâtre-Lyrique. In 1872 the opera Djamileh, mounted at the opera-Comique, was a failure, as was the original score for the melodrama L'arlésienne, a collaboration with Alphonse Daudet. He won a lasting although largely posthumous success with the opera Carmen, staged, after considerable difficulty, in 1875 and running at the time of Bizet's sudden death in the same year.
Bizet started work on his only completed symphony on 29th October 1855, completing the work in the following month. His achievement is all the more remarkable in view of his age at the time, seventeen, and his status as a Conservatoire student still two years away from a first prize in the Prix de Rome. The symphony remained unperformed, the score passed by the composers widow, Genevieve Bizet, to Reynaldo Hahn, who thought little of it. Its discovery in 1933, after Hahn had deposited these and other papers in the Conservatoire, led to a first performance in 1935 under Weingartner and continuing popularity as apart of standard classical orchestral repertoire.
Classical in form and general texture, Bizet's Symphony in C opens with an Allegro vivo in tripartite sonata-allegro form and an Adagio that brings a winning oboe solo and a central fugal section. There is a perfectly formed scherzo and trio and a finale that gives a foretaste of Carmen in the opening of its principal subject.
The set of twelve pieces for piano duet that constitute Jeux d'enfants was written in 1871 and from the set a shorter orchestral suite was derived in the same year, making use of five of the six or seven that Bizet had orchestrated. The Petite suite d' orchestre starts with a Trompette et tambour: Marche trumpet and drum, followed by La poupee: Berceuse, a doll's cradle-song. The third of the five pieces is La toupie: Impromptu, the top, leading to Petit mari, petite femme: Duo, little husband, little wife, and a final Le bal: Galop.
The so-called Scènes bohémiennes, gypsy Scènes, are taken from the second act of Bizet's opera La jolie fille de Perth, derived from Sir Walter Scott's novel The Fair Maid of Perth. Bizet had signed a contract for the opera in July 1867 and it was ready for performance on 26th December in the same year. The story concerns the love of Henry smith and Catherine Glover and its vicissitudes caused by the jealousy of Catherine's fathers apprentice Ralph and by the far more dangerous rivalry of the Duke of Rothesay. Intervening in the story is the gypsy Mab, a former mistress of the Duke, to whose presence in the plot the gypsy Scènes are due. Whatever the shortcomings of the opera itself, the excerpts give a fair idea of Bizet's gifts both as a composer and in orchestration, with a delicately scored Prelude, a stirring Marche and an exotic Gypsy Dance, introduced by flute and harp.
L'Arlesienne (The Girl from Arles) was the result of a collaboration in 1872 between Bizet and the writer Alphonse Daudet, an attempt to create again the form of melodrama, a combination of music and theatre. For this purpose Daudet chose to treat the story of the vain love and suicide of a young relative of the Provençal poet Mistral. Frederi, the lover, is infatuated with the girl from Arles, who is never seen on stage, but finds that she is the mistress of a scoundrel, Mitifio. His mother persuades him to marry Vivette, a girl who has long loved him, but on the eve of his wedding Frederi meets Mitifio, remembers his old love and kills himself.
In the Theatre L'Arlesienne was unsuccessful, partly because the audience expected a straight play, and took exception to music that some labelled Wagnerian. From the incidental music Bizet drew a suite (Suite No.1), rewriting and rescoring the pieces for a larger orchestra than his original band of 25 players. The Prelude and Adagietto, the latter originally for string quartet, are simply re-orchestrated, while other changes were made in the Minuet, originally an Intermezzo, and to the Carillon, to which he added a middle section drawn from elsewhere in the original score. The suite won immediate success in the concert hall.
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra acknowledges major funding support from the New Zealand Government through the Ministry of Cultural Affairs / Te Manatu Tikanga a lwi.
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
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