Music
Georges Bizet

Biography

Equipped with one of the quickest brains in musical France, Bizet took most of his 36 years to link it up with an equally exceptional artistic vision and imaginative power. His Variations chromatiques (1868) for piano is a virtuoso exploration ...

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Biography

Equipped with one of the quickest brains in musical France, Bizet took most of his 36 years to link it up with an equally exceptional artistic vision and imaginative power. His Variations chromatiques (1868) for piano is a virtuoso exploration of quick-changing harmonies that is almost as strenuous to listen to as to play. The humane qualities showed fitfully in his prolific early output of operas, as he found his way through a maze of French and Italian influences. Almost as soon as his own creative voice had fully developed, he died, on the 33rd night of the premiere run of Carmen.

While Bizet was studying in Paris, he absorbed a varied range of music and could apparently emulate it all. At 17 he was entrusted by Gounod with making keyboard versions of the senior composer’s two symphonies, and immediately composed one of his own in very similar style but with extra sparkle and energy. At 19 his first opera, Le docteur Miracle (1857), offered a mix of bel canto imitation and fresh ideas. After time out in Italy, as a result of winning the Prix de Rome, he wrote Les pêcheurs de perles (‘The Pearl Fishers’, 1863) at 25. It showed he now knew his French opera composers and could do it their way, with a flair for melody and theatrical effectiveness, and it still holds a place in the repertory.

More eclectic works, La jolie fille de Perth (freely adapted from Walter Scott, 1866) and Djamileh (1871), followed without causing a major stir; his leisurely orchestral suite Souvenirs de Rome, later called simply Roma (1860–68), went down better; and then around 1872 everything came into focus. His incidental music for a production of Daudet’s play L’Arlésienne had a concise simplicity of form, sharpness of character and beauty of expression that would make it a staple concert item. A Petite suite for orchestra, scored from his set of piano duets Jeux d’enfants (1871), made a similar impact. In the same year, 1873, he started work on Carmen.

The opera became a success a few months too late for Bizet to know. The Paris performances suffered from haste and last-minute changes, and it was Vienna, later in 1875, that first responded to Carmen as it deserved. For Bizet’s newly clarified and luminous musical language had proved its viability at full stretch. Presented with the archetypal character of a free and personally powerful woman, adapted from Prosper Mérimée’s novel, and the tragedy of her encounter with two contrasted but equally archetypal male mixtures of maximum testosterone and minimum sensitivity, Bizet responded with music of astonishing immediacy and expressive force and bold dramatic timing. The quality and the emotional aptness of its melodies have made Carmen a popular favourite with audiences – as much as connoisseurs – ever since.

Profile © Robert Maycock



Tracks (47)

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L' Arlesienne - suite no. 1, Carillon
L' Arlesienne - suite no. 1, Carillon
Orchestra
Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenobles
last_played_on
Carmen - suite no. 2: no.6; Danse boheme (Chanson boheme, Act 2), arr. Horowitz
Carmen - suite no. 2: no.6; Danse boheme (Chanson boheme, Act 2), arr. Horowitz
Performer
Yuja Wang
Music Arranger
Carmen: Je dis que rien ne m'epouvante
Carmen: Je dis que rien ne m'epouvante
Orchestra
Rome Opera Orchestra
Le Bal (Galop) from Jeux D'enfants (Petite Suite)
Le Bal (Galop) from Jeux D'enfants (Petite Suite)
Conductor
Toreador's Song
Carmen - ballet suite for strings and percussion [after Bizet]
Carmen - ballet suite for strings and percussion [after Bizet]
Conductor
Vesa-Matti Leppänen
Au fond du Temple Saint from the Pearl Fishers0
Carmen - suite no.1
Carmen - suite no.1
Orchestra
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava
Carmen - opera in 4 acts
Carmen - opera in 4 acts
Performer
Giuseppe Sinopoli
Thomas Moser
Bavarian State Opera Orchestra
last_played_on
L’Arlesienne: Suite No. 2
L’Arlesienne: Suite No. 2
Orchestra
Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble
Jeux d'enfants (Petite suite)for orchestra ; no.4; Petit mari, petite femme (Duo
Jeux d'enfants (Petite suite)for orchestra ; no.4; Petit mari, petite femme (Duo
Conductor
Andrew Davis
last_played_on
Symphony in C major, 4th movement; Allegro vivace
Prelude from Carmen
L' Arlesienne - suite no. 1, Prelude
L' Arlesienne - suite no. 1, Prelude
Performer
Christopher Swann
last_played_on
Symphony in C
Symphony in C
Performer
Peter Spence
ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA C/B ENRIQUE BATIZ
Jeux d'enfants, op.22; Impromptu: La Toupie (The Top)
Jeux d'enfants, op.22; Impromptu: La Toupie (The Top)
Conductor
Je crois entendre encore (from The Pearl Fishers)
Je crois entendre encore (from The Pearl Fishers)
Performer
last_played_on
"Au fond du temple saint" (The Pearl Fishers) (feat. RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, Robert Merrill & Renato Cellini)
"Au fond du temple saint" (The Pearl Fishers) (feat. RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, Robert Merrill & Renato Cellini)
Carmen - Act 3 no.20 (Quant au Douanier)
Carmen - Act 3 no.20 (Quant au Douanier)
Orchestra
Berlin Philharmonic
last_played_on
Carmen - Act 3 entr'acte
Carmen - Act 3 entr'acte
Orchestra
Berlin Philharmonic
last_played_on
Carmen - suite no. 2, no.2; Habanera (Act 1)
Carmen - suite no. 2, no.2; Habanera (Act 1)
Orchestra
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Conductor
last_played_on
L' Arlesienne - incidental music: no.21 (19); Farandole
L' Arlesienne - incidental music: no.21 (19); Farandole
last_played_on
L' Arlesienne - suite no. 1, Minuetto
L' Arlesienne - suite no. 1, Minuetto
Orchestra
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Conductor
last_played_on
Les Pecheurs de perles - opera in 3 acts
Les Pecheurs de perles - opera in 3 acts
last_played_on
Carmen: Pres des remparts de Seville (seguidilla)
Carmen: Pres des remparts de Seville (seguidilla)
Singer
James King
Christa Ludwig
Conductor
Orchestra
Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Variations on a theme from Bizet's Carmen for piano
Variations on a theme from Bizet's Carmen for piano
Music Arranger
Horowitz, Joseph
Performer
last_played_on
Farandole (from L'Arlessiene Suite No.2)
L' Arlesienne - suite no. 2 [compiled by Ernest Guiraud], Farandole
L' Arlesienne - suite no. 2 [compiled by Ernest Guiraud], Farandole
last_played_on
Concerto no. 2 in G minor Op.22..: 2nd mvt; Allegro scherzando
Concerto no. 2 in G minor Op.22..: 2nd mvt; Allegro scherzando
Performer
Nikolai Petrov
last_played_on
L' Arlesienne - suite no. 1, Minuetto
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