Benjamin Godard – Symphony in B flat, op. 57 (ca. 1879)
(b. Paris, 18 August 1849 — d. Cannes, 10 January 1895)
With its sonata-form outer movements, theme and variations second movement, and third movement scherzo, this symphony is certainly the most conventional of Godard’s works in the genre. Widely recognised (though not always with approval) as a prolific composer, Godard wrote 11 works that included “symphonie” in their title. Briefly, these are:
1. An early symphony in A, unpublished
2. An early symphony in E flat, unpublished1
3. The Symphonie gothique op. 23, dedicated to Camille Saint-Saëns and published in Mainz by Schott in the second half of 1883, though probably written in 1874. Premiered at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on 27 April 1878 at a concert of the Société nationale de musique under Edouard Colonne, and performed again in August 1878.2
4. Le Tasse [Tasso], op. 39, a “symphonie dramatique” in three sections for soloists, chorus and orchestra, dedicated to Colonne. It won joint first prize (with Le Paradis perdu by Théodore Dubois) in an 1878 competition organised by the Ville de Paris. Premiered on 18 December 1878, and published in Paris by Hartmann in 1882.
5. Symphonie en si-bemol, op. 57. Until shortly before publication this work was to have been released as Godard’s “first” symphony; in the end it was issued by Choudens in 1889 without a number.
6. Symphonie descriptive: Aurore, op. 59, for solo voice and orchestra (or piano). First performed in Paris, under Charles Lamoureux, on 8 January 1882.3 The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) assigns a date of ca. 1881 to the manuscript (BnF manuscript 21150). The term “symphonie descriptive” was not confined to this work by Godard, but was used here and elsewhere (for example in the “Royal Hunt and Storm” music from Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz) as a generic designation for a piece of descriptive music (here describing the dawn).
7. Symphonie ballet, op. 60, completed in mid-1881 and dedicated to Jules Pasdeloup. Premiered at the Concerts Pasdeloup on 15 January 1882.4 Movements: Ouverture – La Cerrito – Pantomime sentimentale – Danse d’Aimées – Final: Valse.
8. Symphonie orientale, op. 84, composed ?1883 and published in Berlin by Fürstner late that same year. Premiered at the Concerts Pasdeloup on 24 February 1884. Movements: Les Éléphants – Chinoiserie – Sara la Baigneuse – Le Rêve de la Nikia – Marche turque. …
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