New Music Friday: Symphony No. 1 in C – Allegro Vivace

The Allegro Vivace from Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 in C is a lively display of youthful genius. At the age of 17, Georges Bizet wrote the entire symphony in only one month in 1855. The symphony was never performed in his lifetime and had its premiere in Switzerland in 1935. No one is entirely sure why Bizet never tried to have his symphony published. One theory is that Bizet used some of the themes in later music, while another thought is that his symphony too closely mirrors the Symphony in D by Charles Gounod, his teacher and mentor.

In the Allegro Vivace, we hear spirited themes and energetic accompaniments that evoke visions of rustic dances and carefree gatherings. The Trio uses drones in the low strings reminiscent of traditional fiddle tunes.

Bizet never achieved his current level of fame in his lifetime. Audiences and musicians are very familiar with the music from L’Arlésienne and his masterpiece, the opera Carmen, his last major work. Bizet died at the age of 36, thinking Carmen a failure.

This delightful arrangement of the Allegro Vivace from Symphony No. 1 celebrates Bizet’s genius and connects young performers with music from the standard repertoire.

About Symphony No. 1 in C - Allegro Vivace

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This lively and energetic movement should be performed Dotted Quarter = 88-110 with the pulse on each bar. The Allegro Vivace is truly a scherzo in character, and to keep that feeling in the music students should play in the lower part of the bow using off-the-string strokes for most quarter notes. There is some third position for the first violins with alternate fingerings, allowing more advanced students to challenge themselves with second position.

In the trio section at rehearsal D, low-string players should use strong accents at the beginning of each note with a slight detaché to bring out the fiddle character. Several locations in the trio include long notes requiring bow changes. To avoid bumps in the lengthy notes, encourage students to change bows non-concurrently with their stand partner. Emphasizing the dynamic contrasts in the trio section can propel and enliven this piece.

Bizet, like Mozart, was a prodigy and accepted into the Paris Conservatory just before he turned eleven. Your students will likely be interested to know that Bizet wasn’t much older than them when he wrote this symphony at age 17.

About Caryn Neidhold

Caryn Wiegand Neidhold is a composer and arranger for student through professional ensembles. Her focus includes arrangements of hidden classical “gems” and composing music for eclectic styles, including fiddle, rock, and jazz. With an emphasis on learning technique through literature, her music always distributes musical challenges to all string sections – go violas!

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