François Borne (1840 – 1920): Fantasie Brillante on
Themes from Bizet’s Carmen (based on the opera Carmen
by Georges Bizet, 1837 – 1875).
Mozart, Verdi, Rossini and Wagner rank high among the
many composers whose operas have inspired fantasias and
transcriptions by their composer-colleagues. “La ci
darem la Mano”, a duet from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, is
the basis for dozens of theme-and-variations. But since
its premiere in 1875, Bizet’s Carmen has surely taken
the lead as a subject for virtuosic showpieces by other
composers. The opera’s color and passion have given
rise to spectacular arrangements for guitar, piano,
full orchestra, and – in the case of François Borne –
Borne was a flutist with the principal opera company in
Bordeaux as well as a composer and professor at the
conservatory in Toulouse. Expert in both instrumental
technique and in the development of the flute as an
instrument, he is still recognized for his technical
contributions to the Böhm flute. His Fantasie Brillante
on Themes from Bizet’s Carmen is by far his most famous
Borne’s setting of Carmen’s luscious melodies – like
those by Sarasate for the violin, and by Busoni and
Horowitz for the piano – combine the virtuoso’s
understanding of the solo instrument with a flair for
the dance rhythms and passionate colors of the opera.
Borne fills his setting with spectacular arpeggios that
require fleet fingering and consummate breath control.
Carmen’s brilliant Habanera, a traditional dance that
she performs with castanets (and with abundant
flirting), anchors the work. But the mood of Borne’s
Carmen is far brighter than that of the fatalistic
Gypsy girl of Bizet’s opera. In Borne’s showpiece, a
set of brilliant variations on her showy Habanera leads
to a triumphant close – in marked contrast with the
opera’s violent, tragic ending.
Source: Utah Symphony notes
Although originally composed for Flute & Piano, I
created this Interpretation for Oboe & Strings (2
Violins, Viola & Cello).