Bizet

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bizet
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Marche funèbre; Overture in A; Patrie Overture; Les quatre coins; Petite suite; Roma
PERFORMER: RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/ Jean-Luc Tingaud
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573344

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Even the best composers are allowed to turn out a dud from time to time (Beethoven’s Battle Symphony, anyone?), and Bizet’s overture Patrie is a fairly blatant example. Bizet said it celebrated a Polish victory over the Russians in 1792, but in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War French audiences not surprisingly felt it came nearer home. They loved it, as did Massenet, the dedicatee, but it hasn’t worn well.

Patrie aside, this disc offers delights aplenty, not least thanks to Jean-Luc Tingaud’s stylish and alert conducting. I’m not surprised to learn that he studied under that great champion of French music Manuel Rosenthal. The word that springs to mind is ‘punctilio’, defined by Chambers as ‘exact observance of forms’. Everything is in place, nothing is rushed, even at the fastest tempo, and nothing drags at the slowest; and as well as the delightful version of Les quatre coins that didn’t make it into the Petite Suite, it’s particularly good to have the teenage Overture in A as testimony to the composer’s precocious understanding of the orchestra.

This is a disc for those dull, sunless days when the only post is a tax demand.

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Roger Nichols