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ClassicsOnline Home » BIZET: Carmen Suites Nos. 1 and 2 / L'arlesienne Suites Nos. 1 and 2
Georges Bizet (1838 - 1875)
Suite No.1 br>
The French composer Georges Bizet was
born in 1838, the child of musical parents, who did a great deal to encourage
his interest in music, distracting him from other pursuits by hiding books from
him. In 1848 he entered the Conservatoire in Paris, where he became a pupil of
the composer Gounod, while distinguishing himself as a pianist under Marmontel.
In 1857 Bizet won the Prix de Rome, the
prize awarded to those young composers, painters and writers able to pass the
rigorous scrutiny of the examining committee, and in accordance with the terms
of the award was able to study in Rome. His return to Paris in 1860 was to
bring disappointment. He had some success with earlier operas, but it was
Carmen, a work that was enjoying its first run in Paris at the time of his
death, that in the end had the profoundest effect on the public, arousing equal
measures of enthusiasm and hostility.
(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
Provencal poet Mistral. Frédéri, 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 Frédéri meets Mitifio, remembers
his old love and kills himself.
In the theatre L’Arlesiénne 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. The second suite was arranged by Bizet's friend Ernest Guiraud after the
Les dragons de Alcala
Marche du toreador
Marches des contrabandiers
It is difficult for us to understand the
relative failure of the opera Carmen, when it was first staged in Paris
in 1875. Bizet had enjoyed some intermittent success in the theatre, but it was
above all with Prosper Mérimée's novel that he was to find a subject fully
suited to his abilities.
story of the opera shocked audiences. It dealt with the love affair between the
factory-girl Carmen and the toreador Escamillo, her flirtation with Don José, a
corporal of the guard, and her murder by the jealous soldier, whose life she
has ruined and corrupted.
No.1 opens with the Prelude to the first act, which sets the Spanish atmosphere
of the piece, includes strains of the Toreador's Song, and an ominous theme of
Fate, portending the murder that is to come. The Aragonaise is based on
the Spanish jota and is followed by the Intermezzo that serves as a prelude to
the third act, where Carmen and her gypsy smuggler companions march to their
mountain encampment. It was in the Seguidilla that Carmen had first seduced Don
José, to secure her release from arrest on a charge of wounding a fellow-worker
in the factory. The Dragoons of Alcala is the marching-song of Don
José's regiment, which love for Carmen has induced him to desert. The
Toreador's Song is probably the best known of all the melodies in the opera,
recurring to mark the appearance of Escamillo, Carmen's toreador lover.
No.2 opens with the Marche des contrabandiers, the march of Carmen's
gypsy smuggler companions, and continues with the famous Habañera, the
song with which Carmen is first heard, the centre of male attention, as
she comes out of the cigarette-factory. There is a night scene and music for
Don José's regiment to mount guard. The suite ends with a gypsy dance.
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra,
established as a professional orchestra in Bratislava (formerly Pressburg) in
1949, has won itself a considerable reputation during its relatively short
Slovakia, which, with Bohemia and
Moravia, became the Republic of of Czechoslovakia in 1918, was the source of a
great deal of music during the years of the Habsburg Empire. This musically
fertile region has been influenced by Viennese, Hungarian and Bohemian music
and it is these influences that have given the Slovak Philharmonic, one of
Europe's finest orchestras, its unique character. On its many international
tours, and at festivals throughout Europe, the orchestra has been praised for
its great musicality and it has been compared by enthusiastic critics with such
world-class orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic. The orchestra benefited
considerably from the work of its distinguished conductors. These included
Vaclav Talish (1949 -1952), Ludovit Rajter and Ladislav Slovak. The Czech
conductor Libor Pesek was appointed resident conductor in 1981, and the present
Principal Conductor is the Slovak musician Bystrik Rezucha. Zdenek Kosler has
also had a long and distinguished association with the orchestra and has
conducted many of its most successful recordings, among them the complete
symphonies of Dvořak.
During the years of its professional
existence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under the direction of many of the
most distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugen Goossens and Malcolm
Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti.
The orchestra has undertaken many tours
abroad, for example to Germany and Japan and has made a large number of recordings
for the Czech Opus label, for Supraphon, for Hungaroton and, in recent years,
for the Marco Polo label.
These recordings have brought the
orchestra a growing international reputation and praise from the critics of
leading international publications.
Anthony Bramall was born in London in
1957 and spent five years as a chorister at Westminster Abbey, before
continuing his musical education at the Purcell School and at the Guildhall
School of Music and Drama. He attended courses in conducting under Vilem Tausky
and had varied experience as a conductor in Britain, working with Northern
Ireland Opera, Phoenix Opera and Spectrum Opera, becoming, in 1981, Assistant
to the General Music Director in the Municipal Theatre in Pforzheim. In 1984 he
won a special prize in the Hans Swarowsky Conducting Competition and the
following year was guest conductor with the South German Chamber Orchestra.
Since 1985 he has been Director of Music at the Municipal Theatre in Augsburg.
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BIZET: Carmen Suites Nos. 1 and 2 / L'arlesienne S...