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CD Review

Georges Bizet

Orchestral Works

  • Marche funèbre in B minor
  • Overture in A Major
  • Overture "Patrie", Op. 19
  • Esquisse "Les quatre coins"
  • Petite Suite, Op. 22
  • Symphony "Roma"
RTÉ Symphony Orchestra/Jean-Luc Tingaud
Naxos 8.573344 78:24
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Following their well-regarded Dukas program (Naxos 8.573296), the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra and Jean-Luc Tingaud give us this unusually varied and occasionally confusing Bizet disc. Naxos has never had my favorite liner notes, and they are a little unclear on if "Roma" is a symphony, a symphonic suite (the way it was published), or a mixture of both. Still, if you own a complete Carmen and have a disc with the famous orchestral suites (Carmen, etc) and the Symphony in C, this complimentary program will likely give you all the Bizet you could probably ever need. Talk about filling a niche at budget price, eh?

The RTÉ Symphony Orchestra plays extremely well. Nobody is going to mistake them for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, but those players wouldn't touch this music, and that's their loss. From Bizet's first orchestral work – the Overture in A – to the Petite Suite, Op. 22, everything is tuneful and well-articulated. The Patrie Overture is great fun and has basically been ignored since the days of Paul Paray, so it's nice to see the French revisit these pieces. Jean-Luc Tingaud had absolutely no problem with the difficult rhythms of Dukas, but manages to infuse these miniatures with vigor. His brass is a little watery (and some would say that's authentic French playing) but otherwise everyone is lively and alert.

To my ears, the "Roma" Symphony is a tuneful and often elegant piece of music that is still melodically inferior to the Symphony in C. The Petite Suite is far shorter, but also better Bizet, and these forces make the music sparkle nicely. Naxos provides typically fine sound that highlights the very "French" qualities that this ensemble occasionally manages to conjure. On the whole, the Dukas program from Tingaud is arguably more important in terms of content, but lovers of the theatre and of French music will gobble this up.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman