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Roma (Georges Bizet)

Date

1871

Description

Titre alternatif : Symphonie "Roma".

Version originale (1868) : Allegretto vivace – Andante molto

Version révisée (1871) : Andante tranquillo. Allegro agitato. Andate – Scherzo : Allegretto vivace – Andante molto – Carnaval : Allegro vivacissimo

Text

Written between 1859 and 1869, the C major symphony called Roma. Troisième Suite de concert was published posthumously by Choudens in 1880 and performed for the first time in its definitive version under the baton of Jules Pasdeloup in 1869, with the more evocative, if apocryphal, title of Souvenirs de Rome, fantaisie symphonique. For this performance, programmatic headings were also given to the first and third movements, respectively entitled “Une chasse dans la forêt d’Ostie” (A Hunt in the Forest of Ostia) and “Procession”. Roma was revised on numerous occasions in the ten years that elapsed between Bizet starting this work and its first performance. Bizet had initially  envisaged his symphony as the third piece to be sent back to the Institut de France from the Villa Medici after winning the Grand Prix de Rome. As can be seen by his correspondence, the composer had a four-part work in mind at the time, each movement dedicated to one of four Italian cities: Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples. In the end, he only submitted a slow movement entitled “Marche funèbre” followed by a Scherzo and preceded by an overture called “La Chasse d’Ossian” which probably corresponded to an initial version of the Andante tranquillo. The “Marche” finally served as the basis for a scene in Act III of the Pêcheurs de perle and was cut by Bizet, who replaced it with the Andante molto, now placed third after the Scherzo. A victim of the success of the composer’s first symphony, also in C major, the work has remained little known, even though Bizet regarded it as his “only” or “first” symphony. Despite its title, the work’s only explicit reference to Italy is in the last movement, which forms an extensive tarantella, a frenzied dance from the region of Naples mimicking the movements of someone suffering from the effects of a tarantula bite.

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  • BIZET, Georges (1838-1875)