BIZET Roma Symphony. Overtures
Jean-Luc Tingaud’s generous Bizet selection kicks off with two rarities: both the imposing Marche funèbre in B minor from 1860 61 (a prelude to a lost opera) and the thoroughly engaging, at times decidedly Berliozian Overture in A (the composer’s very first orchestral essay) are well worth hearing, and already show no mean skill as well as a pleasingly deft orchestral palette. Bizet began work on his four-movement symphony Roma in 1860, when he was resident in Italy as the Prix de Rome winner, and tinkered with it until 1871. Commentators have tended to be a bit sniffy about this sunny confection, for which I’ve always had something a soft spot ever since encountering Louis Frémaux’s vibrant and outstandingly well-engineered CBSO recording (EMI, 1/75). Tingaud and his admirably eager and scrupulously prepared RTÉ forces do it proud, lavishing especially fetching treatment on the heavenly Andante molto third movement.
Elsewhere, the outer portions of the rousing 1873 overture Patrie may not quite have the strutting swagger or mischievous point of, say, Beecham’s charismatic 1956 outing with the RPO but there’s still plenty of spirit in evidence, and the two characteristically long-breathed tunes at its heart are moulded with genuine elegance and fragrant poetry. No grumbles, either, with the delectably unforced account of the Petite Suite that Bizet assembled from his Jeux d’enfants – and it’s preceded by his orchestral reworking of ‘Les quatres coins’ (No 8 from the piano-duet original). Vividly realistic sound is the icing on the cake of another irresistible bargain from this stylish partnership. More please, Naxos!