Julia Severus

Bizet: Complete Music for Solo Piano

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A collection of Bizet's piano music is a bit more desirable as a purchase than instrumental music by other composers known primarily for opera; Bizet was a fine pianist and made money through his keyboard skills while he was struggling as an opera composer. He wasn't happy about it, however, and his complete compositions as a group reveal his ambivalent attitude. Some of the pieces on this two-disc set are student works, dating as far back as Bizet's early teens in the case of the Romance sans paroles (CD 2, track 11). Much of this early music reveals debts to Chopin or, in the case of the Variations chromatiques de concert, Beethoven. Other works seem to have been written for Bizet's own use, and they're not fundamentally different from the piano productions of lesser composers. The two suites from L'Arlésiennes, arranged by Bizet, do not survive the transition to the keyboard terribly well; they're purely commercial productions. The Grande valse de concert in E flat major would be hard to pick out as Bizet's. All this said, there are a few pieces, from later in the composer's career, where Bizet applied himself to the task of transferring his distinctive voice to the piano, and these, above all: the Chants du Rhin, Venise, and the Chasse fantastique, all on disc 2. These contain the color and passion that made Carmen such a perennial favorite, and lovers of that opera will find some pearls here. Pianist Julia Severus handles the variety of idioms with ease. She contributes her own informative booklet notes, which are given in English, French, and German. No translator is credited; Severus was born and trained in Germany and now teaches in France, so perhaps she is responsible for all three versions.

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