Stay in tune. Join our mailing list.
Assez Lent – Allegro
Jacques Ibert agonised over whether to pursue a career in music or acting, but even after he received formal training at the Paris Conservatoire – interrupted by the First World War – he maintained his love of the theatre. When he was young man, he earned a living as a pianist for silent films and later became a successful film composer.
The music of his Trois pièces brèves began life as incidental music for a French adaptation of Irish playwright George Farquhar’s The Beaux’s Stratagem – a comedy about two young men hoping to stave off ruin by seducing wealthy heiresses.
The choice of instrumentation was partly practical, a wind quintet suiting both the physical space and budget of the production, which opened in Paris in 1930. Ibert soon adapted some of the music for the concert hall in the form of these ‘three short pieces’.
A wind quintet also offers plenty of opportunities for humour – the first movement is bubbly and whimsical, the oboe introducing a delightful, light-hearted melody. It’s the flute that opens the second movement, with a melody both romantic and pensive that intertwines with clarinet, the other three instruments not entering until the movement’s end. While there is still the occasional moment of tension, the finale ultimately offers up a happy ending.
© Angus McPherson 2023