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Arlequin for violin and piano (Édouard Lalo)




Composed around 1848, Arlequin is one of the few short pieces in Lalo’s chamber music, alongside the traditional multi-movement genres. Subtitled esquisse humoristique (“humorous sketch”) or esquisse caractéristique(“characteristic sketch”) depending on the edition, it requires no virtuosity. However, it does call for a flexible bow capable of giving spirit to this light, whimsical score. The dancing rhythms point towards the bolero, and then the waltz, while retaining an improvisatory character. The final episode takes up material from the beginning, but with many variations, mocking the symmetries of the usual ABA form. Capricious and unpredictable: this is how one imagines the Harlequin of the commedia dell’arte (to which Lalo referred again around 1850, with his Pastorale et Scherzo alla Pulcinella for violin and piano). After Marivaux and Goldoni in the eighteenth century, romantic writers were also inspired by the servant with the colourful costume: Sand (the play Arlequin médecin), Théodore de Banville (“Arlequin et Colombine”, included in the 1857 edition of Stalactites), Gautier (“Carnaval”, in Émaux et camées), Hugo (“La Fête chez Thérèse”, in Les Contemplations). One also thinks of Banville’s Souvenirs in 1882: “The old Harlequin of Italian comedy, whom we can no longer imagine, was as agile, naïve and cunning as a beast, and constantly agitated and consumed by an inner flame, never resting, even for a second. He was a dancing being, carried away and propelled by an invisible rhythm.”

    Person - 1
  • LALO, Édouard (1823-1892)
  • Theme - 1
  • Musique de chambre – Autour du piano