Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Roma - Symphony (1860-68, rev.1871) [31:11]
Marche funèbre (1860-61) [8:25]
Overture in A (c.1855) [12:39]
Patrie (1873) [12:18]
Petite Suite (1871) [10:50]
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/Jean-Luc Tingaud
rec. 2014, National Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland. DDD
NAXOS 8.573344 [78:24]

I have listened to this disc several times in the hope of becoming more enthused by it. Having tried, I have reluctantly concluded that while it possesses a certain generic charm and is certainly elegantly played, there is not very much here of great substance justifying a new release, unless its interest resides in hearing previously neglected music by the composer. Bizet the tunesmith is much in evidence but in nearly every item I feel that his invention does not last the course and much here outstays its welcome beyond a few minutes.

There is nothing wrong with “minor” music and a great deal of it here reminds me of the kind of ballet music composers were obliged to insert into their operas to accommodate the patrons of “La grande boutique”, as Verdi archly nicknamed the Parisian Opéra but I cannot say that it long sustains my interest. Keith Anderson’s notes seem to reflect a certain vacuity in the music by being uncharacteristically bland and factual, padded out with unnecessarily long details such as a synopsis of the now lost opera called “La coupe du roi de Thulé”, for which the overture here, renamed as the “Marche funèbre”, was written. It is a mostly very sombre prelude featuring a lyrical love theme and in common with several pieces here remains overlong given a certain paucity of material.

The second item, the “Overture in A”, is also predominantly wistful and lyrical in style but varied with some jolly, folksy episodes reminiscent of Micaëla’s music but as if she were a contadina — nothing is very memorable. The “Patrie” overture is a big, percussive, martial exercise of rather formulaic content but offering a charming Andantino. The “Esquisse” is a perky little tune, followed by five “nursery pieces” which are quaint but a bit saccharine and musically predictable.

The main offering is the symphony lasting just over half an hour. The opening with four horns seems to be a Nocturne owing something to Mendelssohn but the Scherzo witters on inconsequentially, followed by a pleasant, archaic Andante and a lively tarantella finale. The notes again hint at a certain lack of substance by lamely concluding “and the symphony comes to an end” - an event which occurs some time after my own attention, I must confess.

I would like to be more positive about this compilation but it is ultimately too forgettable, bearing too little resemblance to the music for which Bizet is justly remembered.

Ralph Moore

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