Georges Bizet wrote the Symphony in C Major in 1855 as a 17-year-old student at the Paris Conservatoire while studying with Charles Gounod. He shelved the manuscript and it was not until its rediscovery in 1933 that it was brought to the world. Scholars have pointed out the degree to which Bizet emulated and even quoted elements of his teacher’s Symphony in D, which may explain why he suppressed the work, but in its concert life it has far eclipsed Gounod’s work. It is fresh and attractive, and although much simpler than the Beethoven symphonies Bizet might also have been aware of, it gives strong hints of the master tunesmith Bizet was to become later in operas like Carmen.
Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 was written in 1829 when the composer was 19 years old (despite the numbering, it was actually his first). Many of the characteristics of the later Chopin style are already evident- dramatic use of the full range of the keyboard, highly ornamented (almost improvisatory) flights of ornamentation in the right-hand part, and colorful shifts of harmony. Commentators have criticized the relative unimportance of the orchestra’s contribution, but this concerto was conceived as a showpiece for the soloist in the manner of other contemporary works which reflected the move from aristocratic circles to large public concert halls.
After the brooding first movement, the second offers a dreamy and tranquil style later seen in the composer’s nocturnes (Chopin confessed to having been inspired by his distant love of a young woman at the Warsaw Conservatory “whom I dream of”). The final movement is in a rapid three beats-to-the-bar meter evoking Polish mazurkas (the accents on the second beats coincide with vigorous heel taps when danced). A surprise in the home stretch is an announcement by a solo French horn and a shift from minor to major, the pianist leading the way to a brilliant finish.
Steven Errante, conductor
Unless indicated, all program notes are researched and written by Dr. Steven Errante.