Here Bizet amuses himself with writing another piece in the old style. It is neither the suave and courtly evocation of Vieille chanson
, nor the sixteenth-century air de cour of Sonnet
. Rather it is a deliberately rustic musette in the style of the hurdy-gurdy music which was fashionable when Marie-Antoinette played at being a shepherdess in the twilight of the ancien régime. Alternations between minor and major keys are the order of the day, with the stylized interchanges between the shepherdess and her Colin yielding to a surprising (and correspondingly virtuosic) willingness to surrender in the last strophe. The piano ritornello suggests an oboe accompanied by strings. Noske finds this summons up a feeling for Provence, no doubt because the music is reminiscent of the F sharp minor chorus in L’Arlésienne
. Unlike Le matin
(published in the first recueil and entirely modelled on this chorus), Pastorale
is in fact an original song and, despite its modest musical means, one of Bizet’s most charming mélodies.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1998