Bizet Symphony in C; Jeux d'enfants; Roma

A Roman rarity is revealed to be something of an Italian hotchpotch

Author: 
Geoffrey Norris
Bizet Symphony in C; Jeux d'enfants; Roma

Bizet Symphony in C; Jeux d'enfants; Roma

  • Symphony
  • Jeux d'enfants (Petite Suite), Marche (Trompette et Tambour)
  • Jeux d'enfants (Petite Suite), Berceuse (La poupée)
  • Jeux d'enfants (Petite Suite), Impromptu (La toupie)
  • Jeux d'enfants (Petite Suite), Duo (Petit mari, petite femme)
  • Jeux d'enfants (Petite Suite), Galop (Le bal)
  • Roma

Roma could be considered a misnomer. Aside from the fact that Bizet’s hybrid symphony-cum-suite conjures up no compelling evocations of the Eternal City, its four movements almost certainly had their origins in a work inspired not merely by Rome but by Venice, Florence and Naples as well. While there is no sign of a barcarolle that might have fixed an aural image of Venice more securely, parts of the finale do bear some resemblance to a Neapolitan tarantella, although at one stage in the compositional process it was labelled “Roman Carnival”. Roma is a bit of a hotchpotch, betraying the fact that whereas Bizet completed the much more famous C major Symphony in under a month, he tinkered with the components of Roma for 11 years before setting the score aside in 1871.

It was published posthumously in 1880 and has never asserted itself on the repertoire to the extent that the Symphony and the Jeux d’enfants suite have. It contains passages of vintage Bizet, particularly in the light-fingered Scherzo, and shows that he must also have been aware of Weber’s Der Freischütz and some of the less commendable features of Gounod and Meyerbeer, but the Orchestre de Paris play it with relish under Paavo Järvi. Bizet’s confidence in his own personality is much more apparent in the Symphony and Jeux d’enfants, to which these performances bring a sunny disposition together with clarity, polish and a fine ear for Bizet’s gifts as an orchestrator.

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