Bizet, Georges


Bizet, Georges

Variations Chromatiques for orchestra. Arr. for orchestra by F. Weingartner

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Georges Bizet
(b. Paris, 25 October 1838 — d. Bougival, 3 June 1875)

Variations chromatiques, pour piano (1868)

Arrangement for orchestra (1932/1933) by Felix Weingartner

The Variations chromatiques are Bizet’s last work for solo piano, and his only set of variations. Why he wrote them is not immediately obvious, although they are thought to have been inspired by Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor, WoO 80, a work that Bizet is known to have admired.1 Further inspiration reportedly came from the playing of Élie Delaborde, later Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatoire; however, this connection is perhaps less certain.2 The Variations are dedicated to the piano pedagogue, virtuoso and composer Stephen Heller, who had moved to Paris in the year of Bizet’s birth. Intriguingly, Heller later used the theme of Beethoven’s WoO 80 as the basis for his own set of 33 Variations über ein Thema von Beethoven, published in 1871 as his op. 130.

It seems very likely that Bizet composed the Variations during spring/summer 1868. The first surviving mention of them appears in a letter to Galabert from June 1868. In it, the composer tells his friend “J’ai terminé la symphonie. J’ai renoncé aux variations” (I have finished the symphony. I’ve given up on the variations). Something seems to have happened to change his mind, however, as in a further letter to Galabert that July he writes “I have just finished some Grandes variations chromatiques for piano. They use the chromatic theme that I sketched out last winter. I’m completely happy with this piece, I can tell you. The treatment is very daring, as you will see.”3 A final reference appears in a letter of 26 August 1868 to Paul Lacombe: “I will send you three piano pieces, one of which, entitled Variations chromatiques, will, I think, interest you.” …


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