BIZET: Symphony in C Major / Jeux d'Enfants (Donald Johanos/ Murray Khouri/ New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.553027)
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Georges Bizet (1838 - 1875)
Symphony in C major
Jeux d'enfants, Petite suite d'orchestre
Scenes bohemiennes (from La jolie fille de Perth)
Georges Bizet was born in Paris in 1838, the son of asinging-teacher. He entered the Conservatoire at the age of ten and even in childhood hadsome lessons, at least, from Charles Gounod, and later became a pupil of FromentalHalevy, a prolific composer of opera, whose daughter, subject like her mother tointermittent bouts of mental instability, he married in 1869. Ludovic Halevy, a cousin,collaborated on the libretto for Carmen. As a student Bizet won the expectedsuccesses, culminating in 1857 in the first prize in the Prix de Rome, followed by threeyears at the Villa Medici, in accordance with the terms of the award, modified to allowhim to remain in Rome for the final year, rather than move to Germany. In Paris, where hereturned in September 1860 on receiving news of his mother's illness, he earned a livingby hack-work for the theatre and for publishers, interspersed with more ambitiousundertakings, including Les p?¬cheurs 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 The?ótre-Lyrique. In 1872 the opera Djamileh,mounted at the Opera-Comique, was a failure, as was the original score for the melodrama L'arlesienne,a collaboration with Alphonse Daudet. He won a lasting although largely posthumous successwith the opera Carmen, staged, after considerable difficulty, in 1875 and running at thetime of Bizet's sudden death in the same year.
Bizet started work on his only completed symphony on 29thOctober 1855, completing the work in the following month. His achievement is all the moreremarkable in view of his age at the time, seventeen, and his status as a Conservatoirestudent still two years away from a first prize in the Prix de Rome. The symphony remainedunperformed, the score passed by the composer's widow, Genevieve Bizet, to Reynaldo Hahn,who thought little of it. Its discovery in 1933, after Hahn had deposited these and otherpapers in the Conservatoire, led to a first performance in 1935 under Weingartner andcontinuing popularity as a part 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 awinning oboe solo and a central fugal section. There is a perfectly formed scherzo andtrio and a finale that gives a foretaste of Carmen in the opening of its principalsubject.
The set of twelve pieces for piano duet that constitute Jeuxd'enfants was written in 1871 and from the set a shorter orchestral suite was derived inthe same year, making use of five of the six or seven that Bizet had orchestrated. ThePetite suite d'orchestre starts with a Trompette et tambour: Marche trumpet and drum,followed by Lapoupee: Berceuse, a doll's cradle-song. The third of the five pieces is Latoupie: Impromptu,the top, leading to Petitmari, petite femme: Duo, little husband, little wife, and a final Le bal: Galop.
The so-called Sc?¿nes bohemiennes, gypsy scenes, are taken fromthe second act of Bizet's opera La jolie fille de Perth, derived from Sir WalterScott's novel TheFair Maid of Perth. Bizet had signed a contract for the opera in July 1867 andit was ready for performance on 26th December in the same year. The story concerns thelove of Henry Smith and Catherine Glover and its vicissitudes caused by the jealousy ofCatherine's father's apprentice Ralph and by the far more dangerous rivalry of the Duke ofRothesay. Intervening in the story is the gypsy Mab, a former mistress of the Duke, towhose presence in the plot the gypsy scenes are due. Whatever the shortcomings of theopera itself, the excerpts give a fair idea of Bizet's gifts both as a composer and inorchestration, with a delicately scored Prelude, a stirring Marche andan exotic Gypsy
Dance,introduced by flute and harp.
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the country's leading artsorganisation, is based in Wellington, but performs regularly throughout the country.
Formed in 1946, the orchestra was until 1988 part of the Broadcasting Corporation of NewZealand, but thereafter has enjoyed independence as a Crown Owned Entity, with a Board ofDirectors appointed by the Government. The Chief Conductor, appointed in 1990, isFranz-Paul Decker. Now with some ninety players, the orchestra gives some 120 concerts ayear, in addition to its work in the theatre and in television, broadcasting and recordingstudios. Foreign tours include performance at the Seville Expo in 1992 with Dame Kiri TeKanawa, one of a long line of distinguished musicians, from Stravinsky to John Dankworth,who have appeared with the orchestra.
Donald Johanos has been Music Director and Conductor of theHonolulu Symphony Orchestra since 1979, establishing a reputation for high standards andmusical excitement that has carried the orchestra to new levels of growth and development.
The Composer in Residence grant awarded to the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra was directlyattributed to his championing of contemporary works, citing him as "an extraordinaryadvocate for American music." The first place award given to the Symphony by ASCAP in1991 also cited him for "adventuresome programming of contemporary music."
In 1962 Donald Johanos was appointed music director andprincipal conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and in 1970 he became associateconductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. His guest conducting engagements includethe Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, Lisbon's Golden Festival, the Paris Op?¿ra andperformances with orchestras including the Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Chicagoand the National Symphony. His international appearances have included Amsterdam, NewZealand, China, Hong Kong and Mexico and his recording of Gli?¿re's Symphony No.3 in B Minor, Op. 42 with theCzecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) is also available on the Marco Pololabel.