Welcome to Flute Friday Monday!
For a bit of fun this week I revisited an old favorite, Ibert’s Pièce pour flûte seule. The last time I played this piece in public was countless years ago at a studio recital as a Freshmen at DePauw University, long before I tackled the Ibert and Nielsen Concerti and other seminal works from the standard contemporary flute canon. After brushing off the years of dust from this piece and woodshedding some of the technical passages, I began to hear a clear influence of other works written around this time period. When I played the piece from beginning to end, I discovered that Pièce pour flûte seule is shockingly similar in structure to Bozza’s Image. It is difficult to say which piece influenced the other due to discrepancies among scholars regarding publication dates yet both pieces were written for Marcel Moyse. Perhaps Bozza and Ibert were in agreement that there was a “Moyse” style. Perhaps Ibert was trying to set the groundwork for the Image. Or maybe Bozza designed Image to function as a larger, more intricate version of Ibert’s Piece. This of course is all just speculation. What is clear, however, is that there are striking similarities between both of these pieces, structurally as well as and harmonically. Could these pieces be outlining a “Moyse” style?
The Pièce pour flûte seule by Jacques Ibert was written in 1937 as an encore piece for Marcel Moyse to perform (or sight-read, essentially) after a concert held at the French Embassy in Prague. Earlier in the evening, Moyse had premiered the now famous Ibert Flute Concerto and as a musical “treat” for the audience, Ibert composed this short, five minute “encore” piece for Moyse to perform at the end of the concert. Pièce pour flûte seule is similar in compositional style to Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun and Syrinx for Solo Flute.
Bozza’s Image, Op 28, for solo flute was published initially in 1940, however scholars have speculated that the piece may have been writing as early as 1936 during his studies at the Academie de France at the Milla Medici in Rome, Italy. This work is also dedicated to Marcel Moyse, Professor of Flute at the Paris Conservatory. Image is written in ternary (ABA) form with a slower, fantasy-like introduction. The faster, technically demanding A sections are enhanced by a slower, more lyrical B section. Each section is linked together with virtuosic cadenzas exploring the range of the instrument and incorporating extended techniques such as flutter tonging.
Both Pieces are written in ABA with a Quasi-Improvised, Fantasy-like Introduction.
This falls under the “so what” category as there are many pieces written in ternary form with an improvisational introduction. What is similar, however, is that each section is connected by rhythmically intricate cadenzas. Although not marked as a cadenza, the section marked “Vivo” in Piece features faster moving sextuplets that spin in and around Db major and F minor until the resolution of the scale on a high E natural introduces the entrance of the rather brief B section:
Image features a similar cadenza linking the A section to the B section at the top of the 2nd page, beginning with a fermata placed above a low B sharp. Although substantially more difficult, the cadenza functions much like the cadenza from Ibert’s Piece to introduce the shorter B section.
Both Ibert and Bozza leave the true musical fireworks in the cadenza sections connecting the B section to the repetition of the A section. In the Ibert, we see grouping of sextuplets followed by septuplets followed by eight 32nd notes and a grouping of nine 32nd notes. This is all but a prelude to the most technically demanding element of the piece, a long progression of rapidly moving minor thirds extending chromatically for 2 octaves. After a brief climax and a fermata placed over a high Fb, the A section returns in the proceeding 6/8 Andante.
Like the Ibert, Bozza uses the cadenza between the B section and the return of the A section in Image to showcase the most technically demanding elements in the work. After swirling 32nd note figures appear at the bottom of the 2nd page in the measures marked “a picaere,” the music erupts into an fantastical line extending to a high Bb and falling in chromatic broken chords until a chromatic scale beginning on a high D introduces the brief but critical element of flutter-tonguing. Octave displacements complete the cadenza and introduce the return of the A section at the Piu lento.
The use of the virtuosic cadenza sections in both works displays a clear similarity in function to connect the A section to the B and the B section to the return of the A section. They also save their most important compositional “fireworks” for the end of the B section cadenza. Coincidence? Were these composers copying each other’s approach? Where they somehow commenting on the Moyse style?
Duple vs. Triple Subdivisions in the Primary Melodies
The primary melody of the B section in Bozza’s Image is built upon a juxtaposition of a duple pattern followed by triplets and again interrupted with a duple pattern. For example, the second and third measure of the 3/4 B section begin with duplets followed by two beats of triplets:
This pattern replays throughout the B section namely in and around the impending Animanto:
The same duple vs. triple melodic construction also appears in the primary A melody in the Ibert, most significantly 15 measures after the 6/8 a Tempo where a measure of duple eighth notes are followed by a measure of triples before briefly returning to a duple beat. This is followed by 1 beat of triples and one beat of 4 sixteenth notes:
What is the significance of the duple vs. triple melody? Was this again evocative of the “Moyse” style or were the composers simply copying from each other?
“Swirling” Patterns I have already briefly mentioned that there are rhythmic figures in both the Bozza and the Ibert placed in the cadenza following the B section of each work that “swirl.” What I mean by this term is that either chromatically or in scale-wise motion, these figures ascend and descend rapidly often landing on a pedal tone. The similarities between these swirling figures in both pieces are quite eerie.
In both instances, there are 3 repetitions of this swirling figure, all gaining in intensity with each repetition to lead into the most virtuosic moment of each piece. Was this swirling figure somehow evocative of Moyse? Perhaps this was an exercise used at the Paris Conservatoire. Or maybe a commentary on the nature of a brooding performer who perhaps lets his thoughts bubble not once, not twice, but three times before he takes action (sounds like a Taurus…). It could also simply be a musical duplicate created by composers either trying to pay homage to each other’s work or trying to shoplift trademark compositional figures.
The Introductions of both works are strikingly similar – meandering lines creating fantasy-like imagery using echo effects and rapid lines leading to false climaxes. The most significant similarity, however, is the repetitive notes that create a sense of recitative without words.
In the Ibert, such a figure appears at the very beginning of the piece:
In the Bozza a matching figure appears at the measure marked “Lent”:
Is this intended to be the voice of Moyse? Is there a sentence or a phrase known only to the composer that is created using these rhythmic syllables? Is there a joke buried in these lines that only Moyse would understand? The monotone rhythm of the line could represent a monotone voice speaking musical knowledge without the use of words. Far-fetched?
They say that imitation is the finest form of flattery. There are several works throughout the history of Western Music that could be considered imitations of one another. There are even works that clearly pay tribute to other works (Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, for example, tips its hat to the fugal works of J.S. Bach as does many of the works by Felix Mendelssohn). In this instance, although the works appear to be musical “dupes,” both composers may have been using the same structures and compositional devices to comment on the performer for which these works were written. Is there a “Moyse” style buried within these works? Can you hear other similarities between Ibert’s Piece and Bozza’s Image? Do these figures point at Moyse’s strengths as a performer or his approach as a teacher? Please comment below!
Really interesting comparison! Thanks for sharing!