Carson City Symphony

PROGRAM NOTES for Feb. 27, 2011, by Steve Anthenien

Georges Bizet - L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1

Best known as the composer of the opera Carmen, Georges Bizet (1838-1875) was considered a child prodigy, entering the National Conservatory in Paris at age nine. An early death cut short his promising career, but the music he left is tuneful, approachable, and among the most frequently programmed classical music.

Bizet was born in Paris, the son of amateur musicians. He was able to read and write music at age four, and after his enrollment at the National Conservatory, he earned a series of prizes for music theory, organ, piano, and composition. His Symphony in C, written at age seventeen while he was still a student at the conservatory, is considered a masterwork.

The incidental music to Alphonse Daudet's play L'Arlésienne (The Girl fom Arles) was composed in 1872. The play was a failure, with critics complaining that there were "too many overtures." In other words, Bizet's music overpowered the drama. Fortunately, Bizet rescued some of the best music and assembled two suites. L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1, performed today, has four movements:

Gabriel Fauré - Dolly Suite, Op. 56

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was one of the foremost French composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among his best-known works are the Requiem, Incidental Music for Pelleas and Melisande, Pavane, Clair de lune, and the Nocturnes for piano.

Fauré showed an early aptitude for music, and was enrolled in the School of Classical and Religious Music at age nine. He studied piano there with Camille Saint-Saëns, and the two became lifelong friends. After graduation, Fauré secured a series of increasingly prestigious positions as a church organist, a living that would allow time for writing music. He was encouraged by Saint-Saëns to apply for a position at the National Conservatory in Paris and was appointed professor of composition in 1896 and Conservatory Director in 1905. His students there included Georges Enescu, Nadia Boulanger, and Maurice Ravel.

Dolly Suite is dedicated to Hélène Bardac, the daughter of a close friend, singer Emma Bardac. Hélène was known to her family as "Dolly," and some speculate that she may have been Fauré's daughter. The orchestral adaptation performed today is by Henri Rabaud (1873-1949), who was a composer, cellist, conductor, and Fauré's successor as National Conservatory Director. The suite consists of six movements:

Édouard Lalo - Symphonie espagnole for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 21

Édouard Lalo (1823-1892), while well known to string players for his Symphonie espagnole and Cello Concerto, isn't one of the most recognizable names in the standard orchestral repertoire. Lalo wrote music of high quality throughout his lifetime, but didn't achieve recognition until middle age.

Born in Lille, France, Lalo attended the local music school before enrolling at the National Conservatory in Paris at age sixteen. He hoped to make a career as a composer, but discouraged by his inability to get his music performed and published, he worked for many years as a string player and teacher in Paris. Lalo's music began to receive notice when the violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate added one of Lalo's early violin concerti to his repertoire in the early 1870s. Encouraged by the acclaim the work received, Lalo wrote the Symphonie espagnole for Sarasate in 1874. The raging success of the piece finally cemented Lalo's reputation as a composer.

A typical violin concerto has three movements; a symphony has four. The Symphonie espagnole has five:


This page last updated 2/22/2011