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These songs were written at the same time as the composer was working on La jolie fille de Perth. On the one hand, he seems to have treated them in cavalier fashion as if they were no more than hack work; on the other, he seems to have taken pride in their composition:

I am working very hard, having just finished at top speed six mélodies for Heugel. I believe you will not be unhappy with them. I have chosen the words carefully: Alfred de Musset’s Adieux à Suzon and A une fleur, Lamartine’s Le grillon, an admirable sonnet of Ronsard, a graceful affectation of Millevoye, and an exuberant Guitare by Hugo. I have not omitted a single stanza, using all. A musician has no right to mutilate the poets.

The final sentiment seems rather strange considering that Bizet shamelessly ‘mutilated’ the Hugo poem about the Arab hostess, and cut Lamartine down to miniature size in Douce mer. Perhaps he had been reproved by a literary enthusiast and decided to mend his ways. In any case this set of six poems (long unavailable to performers because they appear in neither of the Choudens recueils) is a stunning display of musical versatility. It seems that Bizet has deliberately set out to embrace every possible type of mélodie – intimate confessional, dashing trouser-role, period piece, Spanish evocation, soulful meditation, and comic scherzo for farmyard performance, prefiguring Chabrier’s songs in the same genre. By the keys of the cycle (here all sung in the original) we deduce that the composer could not have been thinking of a single singer for the ‘cycle’ but an entire operatic cast! For example, Carmen might sing Guitare, Don José Adieux à Suzon, Micaëla Le grillon and so on. The latter song is a virtuoso piece for coloratura soprano; Rose d’amour is written, on the other hand, in the contralto tessitura. Only the exceptional vocal versatility of Ann Murray makes a complete performance of the work on this disc possible.

from notes by Graham Johnson ę 1998

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Details for CDA66976 track 6
Adieux Ó Suzon
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-97-97606
Duration
4'37
Recording date
7 May 1997
Recording venue
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Bizet: Songs (CDA66976)
    Disc 1 Track 6
    Release date: February 1998
    Deletion date: January 2013
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