Georges Bizet


Born: 1838   Died: 1875   Country: France   Period: Romantic
Known for one of the world's most popular operas, Carmen, Georges Bizet deserves attention as well for other works of remarkable melodic charm. Many of his works received cool receptions on their premieres but are now considered central to the repertory of classical music.

Bizet was born in Paris on October 25, 1838, and grew up in a happy, musical family that encouraged his talents. He learned to read music at the same time he learned to
Read more read letters, and equally well. Entering the Paris Conservatory before he was ten, he earned first prize in solfčge within six months, a first prize in piano in 1852, and eventually, the coveted Prix de Rome in 1857 for his cantata Clovis et Clotilde. His teachers had included Marmontel for piano and Halévy for composition, but the greatest influence on him was Charles Gounod, of whom Bizet later said "You were the beginning of my life as an artist." Bizet himself hid away his Symphony in C, written when he was 17, feeling it was too much like its models, Gounod's symphonies. The two years spent in Rome after winning his prize, would be the only extensive time, and a greatly impressionable one, that Bizet would spend outside of Paris in his brief life. When he returned to Paris, he lost confidence in his natural talents and began to substitute dry Germanic or academic writing for his own developing idiom. He composed a one-act opera for production at the Opéra-Comique, but the theater's director engaged him to write a full-length opera instead, Les pęcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers). It was not a success at the time, but despite a few weaknesses, the work was revived in 1886, and its sheer beauty has earned it a respected position among the lesser-played operatic repertory. In 1863 Bizet's father bought land outside Paris where he built two bungalows, one of which Bizet frequently used as a compositional retreat. He began a friendship (apparently not a physical one) with a neighbor-woman named Céleste Mogador, a former actress, author, courtesan, circus rider, and dance-hall girl. She is said to have been the model for his masterpiece's title role of Carmen. Bizet earned his living as an accompanist and publishing house arranger. Meanwhile, he poured his creative efforts into an immense five-act opera in the grand tradition, Ivan IV, but it was never performed. This proved to be a pattern for the rest of his career. Bizet would work hard to get an opera produced, and even if he did, it would usually receive only a handful of performances. Bizet's corpus of unfinished works is large, and testifies to his unsettled existence and his difficulty in finding a place in France's notoriously hierarchical and conservative musical world. In 1869 Bizet married Genevičve Halévy, daughter of his teacher. The marriage did not turn out to be a happy one, primarily due to her family's history of mental illness. In 1872, Bizet's splendid incidental music for the play L'arlčsienne was poorly received, but when the composer assembled the music into an orchestral suite for a November performance, it found great acclaim. At last confident of his creative vision, Bizet was able to steer his final masterpiece through various obstacles, including the objections of singers and theater directors who were shocked by Carmen's subject matter. When the opera had its premiere on March 3, 1875, it was received barely well enough to hang on for future productions. Although it took audiences only a few weeks to catch on, Bizet died convinced it was a failure. Read less
Bizet: Piano Works / Blanchard
Release Date: 09/15/2017   Label: Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)  
Catalog: 9042018   Number of Discs: 1
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Bizet: L'arlésienne, Carmen - Suites / Bramall, Slovak Po
Release Date: 06/30/1992   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8550061   Number of Discs: 1
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Bizet: Carmen (Highlights)
Release Date: 01/28/1994   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8550727   Number of Discs: 1
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Bizet: Symphony In C - Jeux D'enfants
Release Date: 01/04/1996   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8553027   Number of Discs: 1
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Classics Explained - An Introduction To Bizet: Carmen
Release Date: 07/16/2002   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8558010   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: L'arlésienne: Suite no 2


L'Arlésienne - Suite No.2 (orch. Ernest Guiraud) (2000 Digital Remaster): Pastorale
L'Arlésienne - Suite No.2 (orch. Ernest Guiraud) (2000 Digital Remaster): Intermezzo
L'Arlésienne - Suite No.2 (orch. Ernest Guiraud) (2000 Digital Remaster): Minuet (from 'La jolie fille de Perth')
L'Arlésienne - Suite No.2 (orch. Ernest Guiraud) (2000 Digital Remaster): Farandole
About This Work
In 1879 the Opéra Comique in Paris staged its wildly successful revival of Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. Public response to Bizet's music ran so strong that publishers began to clamor for more of his music -- such as could be found, since the Read more composer had died four years early. Bizet's friend and amanuensis Ernest Guiraud turned to the task of evaluating what could be edited for publication of Bizet's surviving manuscripts. Girard had an intimate knowledge of Bizet's musical style, and it was he who had already transformed the few bits of spoken dialogue within Carmen into neat recitative.

It was quickly apparent to Girard that he had undertaken no easy task. Bizet had only arrived at his signature style some six years before his death, and precious little of Bizet's time had been devoted to the composition of original works. Much of it had been taken up with projects designed to pay the bills, primarily in creating piano/vocal scores of operas by his more celebrated contemporaries such as Gounod and Reyer -- works that are forgotten today.

Nonetheless, by 1880 Girard had decided to embark on constructing a second suite from Bizet's incidental music for Alphonse Daudet's 1872 play L'Arlesienne as companion to the composer's own suite. None of the 27 cues that Bizet had written for L'Arlesienne were very substantial in and of themselves, and Bizet had already mined most of the good ones himself. Also, the original work was written for a theater orchestra of less than 30 players. Girard decided to use Bizet's own L'Arlesienne Suite as a model for how to deal with enlarging the original orchestration, and as a result the second L'Arlesienne Suite resembles the first in terms of instrumental color.

The Pastorale that opens this suite was the most complete bit of music that Bizet had composed for L'Arlesienne that he hadn't used in the previous offering; the rest of the work posed a problem. Girard solved it by reprising part of the "Minuetto" from the first suite to flesh out the "Intermezzo" of the second, dovetailing the too-short "Farandole" into a reprise of the "Pastorale," and borrowing another minuet from an unrelated work, Bizet's opera La Jolie Fille de Perth. Later, Girard further borrowed the "Intermezzo" he'd created for this suite, added choral parts, and created the well-known Agnus Dei which bears Bizet's name. This latter work has to be considered spurious, considering its origins.

Despite the cut-and-paste method through which the second L'Arlesienne Suite was put together, it holds up fairly well to the first, and the two are quite frequently performed and recorded together. Both L'Arlesienne Suites constitute a major cornerstone in middle Romantic French orchestral literature, a field in which there are many contenders; few have held the public interest for as long and as well as these two suites of Bizet and Girard.

-- Uncle Dave Lewis, All Music Guide Read less

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