Symphonie en ut & Jeux d’enfants
François-Xavier Roth, conductor
When I reviewed a recording of the symphonies composed by Charles Gounod, I mentioned a Symphony in C major that Georges Bizet had written after the impression received by the execution of one of them and, now that I finally found a recording that includes this piece together with two other compositions, I decided it is time to talk about it.
Bizet started the composition of the Symphony in C major four days before his seventeenth birthday and was completed the following month (November 1855), but it was never performed, nor it seems that Bizet had the intention to perform it, and suffered the fate of many early compositions, that is, its creator uses its music in other works. The symphony was rediscovered by chance in 1932 and performed for the first time in 1935. Gounod is not the only composer that the young Bizet takes for his model and the symphony is written under the influence of Rossini, Mozart and Mendelssohn, who was one of the favourites of Gounod too.
Jeux d’enfants, another composition by Bizet, belongs to a later period and was composed first as a collection of twelve pieces for piano four hands and later five of them were rearranged for orchestra. Under the title Petite suite d’orchestre, Jeux d’enfants premiered at the Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris in 1873, receiving a warm welcome.
The pieces not orchestrated by Bizet were later arranged by Roy Douglas and Hershy Kay.
The last work is the less known Suite Pastorale by Emmanuel Chabrier. This is the transcription for orchestra of four songs of Dix pièces pittoresques pour piano (1881), which was conducted by the composer himself at the premiere of 1888, on the occasion of a concert of the Association artistique d’Angers. This composition influenced Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin.
As for the recording, the first thing I want to note is that the album looks like a compact and homogeneous whole. Bizet is definitely more lively, Chabrier more delicate, but overall their works match wonderfully together. It is clear that the spirit of the pieces varies from time to time, especially as they are not compositions which tend to a unitary character in the full sense of the expression, except the Symphony. Even in this work, however, there are many variations, so that if the first movement tends to have the characters of a brilliant dance music, the second movement recalls instead a country atmosphere.
The chamber orchestra Les Siècles, directed by François-Xavier Roth, plays in great harmony, revealing the most gracious and amiable traits of this music. The light, joyful and clean sound of the orchestra adds a great refinement to these works and has the ability to portray in detail the many nuances and feelings that Bizet and Chabrier suggest.