L’Arlésienne. Drame en 3 Actes de Alphonse Daudet. Partition, Chant & Piano.

Paris, Choudens, [1872].

4to, pp. [2], 85, [1]; plate no. 2486; decorative title-page printed in pale brown; lower corners a little thumbed, small marginal tear to pp. 15/16 repaired; a good copy, uncut in contemporary quarter reversed sheep with marbled boards, music seller’s paper label to front board, paper shelf-label to spine.


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First edition, earliest issue (with the incorrect time signature to no. 5), of the first appearance in print of Bizet’s incidental music for Daudet’s tragedy L’Arlésienne, composed in 1872 to a commission from Léon Carvalho. It was first performed at the Théâtre du Vaudeville on 1 October 1872. The full score of the work was not published until 1876.

‘The nature of L’Arlésienne forced Bizet to be economical, with only short passages of music for the most part and only a small orchestra, and in this he was triumphantly successful. The Prélude-Ouverture is an extended piece like the entr’actes that introduce each act, but elsewhere the music consists for the most part of brief mélodrames under dialogue. They succeed superbly in delineating character with pointed and expressive themes, while the longer movements suggest a Provençal tone, using genuine melodies from the region’ (New Grove).

The well-known L’Arlésienne orchestral suites were not produced until later, the first comprising four movements from the present work by Bizet, and the second arranged by Ernest Guiraud (1837–1892) after the composer’s death.

James J. Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music, fifth edition, New York, 2000, p. 109.

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