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Bizet: Symphonie In C, Carmen Suite, Etc / Ozawa


Release Date: 05/22/2009 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 63898   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Georges Bizet
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

With a playing time of approximately 30 minutes, Bizet’s youthful symphony is usually paired with other material. Both of the discs under review have completed the program with works either by Bizet or based on his material. All of the selections are reissues: Ozawa’s from 1983 and 1984, Munch from 1963, and Gerhardt from 1990. EMI’s disc is their earlier CD release repackaged with new cover art and a lower price, whereas the material on the Profil disc came from Reader’s Digest.

Reader’s Digest, often with RCA, produced several deluxe albums of classical selections, available in both monophonic and stereo, and marketed domestically and internationally with such titles as “Light Classical Gold (The World’s Best-Loved Music),”
Read more and “Festival of Light Classical Music.” To add to the allure, purchasers were assured that these records were “New Cyclophonic Miracle Sound Recordings.” Wow! Cyclophonic?!? But, they were not recordings made on the cheap. By and large they were excellent, high quality pressings and offered performances that ranged from quite respectable to very good. The albums were collections of all the war-horses, everybody’s favorites, and often just the most popular extract from a larger work such as only “Procession of the Sardar” from Caucasian Sketches Suite 1. Usually material had to fit on one side of an LP, which probably accounts for Munch’s reading of the Symphony in C being shorn of repeats and clocking in at 25 minutes compared to Ozawa’s at 35.

I love the Symphony in C. It is happy and exuberant and chock full of good tunes. Some day I hope to find it paired with Arthur Sullivan’s Symphony in E, another piece of similar disposition, but both of the albums under review offer an inviting potpourri of Bizet’s likable and imaginative music. Comparing the two versions, there is much to like in both. Ozawa’s is more complete, nearly 10 minutes longer, but there is equal joie de vivre with the Munch. I found the sound of the Munch to be brighter and more immediate than the digitally recorded Ozawa. The sound differences were only apparent when playing them simultaneously, something I would not ordinarily do, but both are quite acceptable. The Ozawa disc is also fuller and contains a wider variety of Bizet’s music. Overall, the EMI disc is nearly 15 minutes longer than the Profil.

Bizet wrote incidental music to underscore and complement the play L’arlésienne in 1872. Budgetary constraints limited him to no more than 26 musicians, but later on Bizet extracted four of the numbers to form the L’arlésienne Suite No. 1 and he fleshed the material out with larger orchestral forces. Years later, after Bizet’s death, Ernest Guiraud (who wrote the recitatives for Carmen) followed Bizet’s example and created the L’arlésienne Suite No. 2, also inserting a minuet from Bizet’s opera La jolie fille de Perth. The suites have achieved a popularity and familiarity more so than their source. In 1986, EMI released an album of the complete incidental music with Michel Plasson conducting the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse. It is interesting to compare the material in the original version with the more flamboyantly orchestrated suites.

The Profil disc has some stiff competition. The same pairing of the symphony with the L’arlésienne suites was recorded in 1956 by Beecham for EMI. It is now available as part of their series of “Great Recordings of the Century.” I wouldn’t trade the Beecham, but this new Profil has much to recommend it.

Ozawa on EMI offers more variety. The three pieces (four, if you count the Carmen suites separately) illustrate many facets of Bizet’s talent. I especially like Ozawa’s readings of the Patrie dramatic overture and the Jeux d’enfants. The two suites of material from Carmen were not arranged by Bizet. Following his death and the immense success of the opera, his publisher commissioned the suites. Apparently, the public couldn’t get enough of the opera’s good tunes. Suite No. 1 is comprised of the opera’s preludes and entr’actes; the second suite is based on the “Habanera” and “Danse bohéme.”

There are nearly two dozen recordings of the Bizet symphony currently available; most are paired with either the L’arlésienne suites or the Carmen suites. If you have a favorite recording, only you can decide if either of these discs under review can equal or replace them, but if you have never experienced Bizet’s merry symphony, either of these discs is a good choice and may become your favorite.

-- David L. Kirk, Fanfare [7/2005] Reviewing EMI 86089 and Profil PH04090
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony in C major by Georges Bizet
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855; France 
2. Patrie Overture, Op. 19 by Georges Bizet
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; France 
3. Jeux d'enfants, Op. 22: Petite suite by Georges Bizet
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; France 
4. Carmen: Suite no 1 by Georges Bizet
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; France 
5. Carmen: Suite no 2 by Georges Bizet
Conductor:  Seiji Ozawa
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ORTF National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; France 

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