Bizet – L’Arlesienne Suites 1 & 2

by Max Derrickson

Georges Bizet   (1838 – 1875)

L’Arlesienne Suites 1 & 2
No 1.  Prelude; Menuet; Adagietto; Carillon
No.2.  Pastorale; Intermezzo; Menuet (from “La jolie file de Perth”);  Farandole

In 1857, eight years after the passing of Chopin, another great composer and pianist, Georges Bizet, was arriving on the scene, this time inRomefromParis, as the recipient of the coveted Prix de Rome for composition. Bizet, also only 19, carried with him an already notable reputation as a brilliant musician and composer.

Born of musician parents, Bizet’s early musical talents won him entry into the Paris Conservatoire just before his tenth birthday. His studies there brought forth his mastery of the piano and several excellent compositions. The most notable of those Conservatoire works is his Symphony in C.

In Rome he settled into a three year stipend garnered by the prize to compose, but though many works were planned and begun, only four pieces survived. He then travelled back toParis, his home, and dedicated himself to composing.

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The prelude makes use of an old military march, Marcho Dei Rei, which then turns over to an exquisite saxophone melody (which portrays the hero’s simple brother), and then the sweetness of the music describing Frederi’s love. Following this come intermission pieces, scene change music, and a menuet borrowed from another opera to complete the second suite. The Adagietto, portraying the love of two other characters in the play, is simply breathtaking in its tenderness. The Carillon is well remembered for its wonderful zest and originality, and it is hard not to get goose bumps at the amazing finale-round Farandole.