Official Release: 21 January 2022
This album gathers together a series of works of the twentieth-century French school. One of the specificities of these scores is found in the works’ genesis, and in particular in the unusual choice of this ensemble. It is rather uncommon to associate the flute and the bassoon alone in chamber music, even though there are famous examples, e.g. Beethoven and Donizetti. Thinking of the harp as a replacement for the piano is an innovation which we could define as very “French” in taste. Different works are therefore found here, born under a “nationalizing” influence, so that one can perceive an extremely French flavor. Even in the most “exotic” pieces, such as Pierre Vellones’ Impressions d’Espagne, we find the compositional and harmonic taste of the French school. The chosen repertoire includes the piece which is probably the best known among those written for this particular ensemble, i.e. André Jolivet’s Pastorales de Noël. Some of the pieces offered here are world premiere recordings.
Pierre Vellones was a French composer born in 1889 who died in Paris in 1939. He studied music privately. Following in his father’s footsteps, he also completed his studies as a MD, and practiced this profession throughout his life. While he was crossing the village of Velosnes, he was conquered by the absolute poetry of the site of Meusan, and took inspiration from it for his pen-name as a composer. Florent Schmitt, from whom he took advice, judiciously encouraged him to persevere in music. His lively intellectual curiosity led him to experience all arts and genres. He wrote instrumental music as well as mélodies for voice and piano. Even if he did not collect triumphs on stage, he had his share of success, writing scores for several documentaries and for more than fifteen movies. This musician, literate, painter and doctor synthesizes the spirit of the period between the two World Wars, whereby tradition and innovation coexisted harmoniously. He was sincerely appreciated by Stravinsky, Ravel and Poulenc. In 1934, influenced by a recent journey to Andalusia, Vellones – who usually painted several watercolors during his travels – wrote two piano pieces which he would transcribe, the following year, for harp, flute and bassoon. These are precisely the two Impressions d’Espagne: two musically very successful pieces, on the plane of both timbre and expression. Exoticism and a multicolored sound research are the interpretive keys for these two pages of a rare and refined beauty.
Born in Paris from a family of artists, André Jolivet studied cello, and later composition, with Paul Le Flem, with whom he focused on the study of harmony and counterpoint. He began to take an interest in atonality after hearing Arnold Schönberg’s music in concert. Following the advice of his former teacher, he became the only European student of Edgard Varèse. With him, he deepened his knowledge of musical acoustics, atonal compositional systems, and orchestration. Already at that time, his compositional philosophy started to reveal itself: the idea of giving back to music its archaic meaning, when it was connected to esoteric and religious phenomena; this would enable the recovery of an emotional side which is strictly bound to the ritual aspect. Jolivet founded the Centre Français d’Humanisme Musical in 1959 in Aix-en-Provence, and, in 1965, he was appointed a Professor of Composition at the Conservatory of Paris. He would die in his native city in 1974.
Pastorales de Noël is a work for flute, bassoon and harp written by Jolivet in 1943; this piece, generally delicate and evocative, brings back a mental state reminiscent of antiquity.
Bernard Andrès is a French composer and harpist who was born in Belfort in 1941. He widened the repertoire for classical and Celtic harp, in particular employing the “effects” that can be produced by these instruments’ different components. Andrès initially studied at the Conservatories of Besançon and Strasbourg. He later continued his harp studies at the National Conservatory of Music in Paris. He entered as a soloist into the ranks of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France in 1969, and remained there as principal harpist until 2005. Following the publication of his pieces, Narthex and Parvis, he acquired fame also as a composer. His Souvenir de Breteuil composed in 1989 required, in its earlier version, the oboe instead of the flute. The composer himself realized an arrangement for harp, flute, and bassoon, dedicated to the Paris Concert Trio. Breteuil is a French city numbering about 4000 inhabitants, in the Department of Oise, in the region of Hauts-de-France. The city was practically wiped out by the Germans in 1940. Andrès’ dances evoke the old splendor of the ancient town, when it still was a small architectonic gem, inside whose palaces feasts and balls were celebrated.
As a gifted pupil, Théodore Dubois studied at Paris Conservatoire obtaining many honors, including the first prize at the Grand Prix de Rome in 1861. Back to France after his stay in Rome, he began a constantly and progressively ascending career. Appointed a Professor of Harmony at the Conservatoire since 1871, ten years later he became a Professor of Composition, and still later he was appointed Director from 1896 until his retirement in 1905. In parallel with these activities, he had various appointments as a church musician, in particular as an organist at the Church of the Madeleine (1877-1896). While remaining faithful to his ideals of clarity and respect for tradition, Dubois was sensitive to his time’s evolution, as demonstrated by his adhesion to the Société nationale de musique. His Deux pieces en forme canonique published in 1900 by Heugel in Paris are two short pieces written in the academic and traditional fashion, but with a taste for the typical harmonies of the Belle-Époque. Several versions, all directly created by the composer, exist: the first edition, conceived for oboe, cello and piano, contains a composer’s note, admitting the replacement of the oboe by the flute or violin, and of the cello by the bassoon or clarinet. The best known and most performed version, until now, is that for oboe, cello and strings (1901).
Charles-Édouard Lefebvre was a French composer born in Paris in 1843. He studied law first, and later entered the Conservatoire of Paris in the class of Ambroise Thomas; for a short time, he was taught also by Charles Gounod. In 1870 he won the Grand Prix de Rome with his cantata Le Jugement de Dieu. After his stay in Villa Medici, he journeyed through Italy, Greece and Turkey, nourishing his marked taste for the Eastern, whose traces are found in his works. In 1895 he became Professor of Chamber Music at the Conservatoire of Paris, directed, before him, by Benjamin Godard. Lefebvre composed many chamber music works: sonatas, duos, trios, quartets, but also symphonies, overtures, suites and mélodies, along with a psalm for choir and orchestra, a lyrical drama and some oratorios. His Ballade for flute, cello and piano (1908) is dedicated to flutist Adolphe Hennebais, one of the best-known flutists of the Belle-Époque. It is a fascinating work, full of lyricism, evoking the romantic and nostalgic settings of the Parisian fin-de-siècle. It is presented here in a version for flute, bassoon and harp arranged by the musicians of the Phainé Ensemble.
Henri Gagnebin studied piano with Auguste Laufer and harmony with Justin Bischoff. In 1905 he spent eight months in Berlin, during which he studied composition with Richard Rössler. In 1908 he went to the Schola Cantorum of Paris, where he studied the organ with Abel Decaux and Louis Vierne, piano with Blanche Selva and composition with Vincent d’Indy. He spent eight years in the French capital, where he was the titular organist of the Lutheran Church of the Redemption. In 1925, he was appointed the director of the Geneva Conservatoire. In 1938, following the advice given to him by Frédéric Liebstöckl (a Viennese who had just arrived in Geneva and who was an expert in the organization of festivals) he founded the International Competition for Music Performance in Geneva, which he presided until 1959. As a composer, Gagnebin approached all genres except operas. He wrote four symphonies, two ballets, a trio, four quartets, a very high number of works for instruments in various ensembles, four piano toccatas, a piano Concerto, more than a hundred works on Huguenot Psalms, two Church Sonatas and various organ pieces. His Pastorale for wind trio and harp is a rather youthful piece, written when the composer was thirty, shortly after the end of the first World War. Chromatic harmonies, folklike themes, and timbral research are the principal features of this work, where the winds enter in dialogue with each other accompanied by the harp’s sweet touch. The piece is dedicated to the Swiss composer Louis Piantoni and was premiered, in all likelihood, by harpist Marcel Grandjany and flutist René Le Roy among others, at the Society of Chamber Music for Winds in Paris.
Paul Lacombe was a French composer active in Paris between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1871, Lacombe became one of the founding members of the National Society, where he frequently had his works performed. Starting in the years following the 1870 war, he continued writing trios, symphonies, quartets, and numerous piano works. In 1887 the Académie des Beaux-Arts awarded him the Prix Chartier for his chamber music. His works were regularly performed at the concerts of Colonne and Pasdeloup. In 1901 he was elected a corresponded of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and promoted as a Knight of the Légion d’Honneur in 1902. His Dialogue sentimental is a very short and delicate work for Trio.
In its original version it was conceived for flute, bassoon and piano, but other versions exist, replacing the flute with the violin and the bassoon with the cello. The text written at the score’s beginning in Bruyères is “Calme, doucement expressif”. Claude Debussy’s piece begins very similarly to La fille aux cheveux de lin; it is indeed as linear and melodic as the other, even though technically more complex. Its calm and sweetly melancholic music recalls landscapes of tranquil and lonely moorlands. It is included in the collection of Préludes (Second Book) for solo piano. Here we can listen to a very delicate and refined version, written for trio in 2020 and dedicated to flautist Filippo Mazzoli by the German composer and conductor Andreas-Luca Beraldo. The score was published in the same year by the Impronta publishing company in Mannheim, Germany.
Filippo Mazzoli © 2021
Davide Bandieri graduated in clarinet in 1997 at the Pietro Mascagni Musical Studies in Livorno under the guidance of Maestro Dario Goracci. Later he perfected himself with Fabrizio Meloni, Karl Heinz Steffens and Alessandro Carbonare. In 2002 he obtained the Master of the three-year chamber music course at the "Incontri col maestro" Academy in Imola under the guidance of Maestro Pier Narciso Masi. Since 2012, after winning an international competition, he has held the role of Principal Soloist Clarinet of the Orchester de Chambre de Lausanne. From 2004 to 2011 he held the role of soloist small clarinet of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid (Orchestra Proprietor of the Teatro Real). He has collaborated with Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of the National Academy of S. Cecilia, National Orchestra of RAI, Orchestra of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Orchestra of Tuscany, and the Orchestra of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma.
Ensemble Phainé was born in Italy in 2016 with the aim of deepening a new chamber repertoire and rediscovering some hidden pages, with particular interest in 20th century music. Its members are all musicians active in the main musical life in Europe; they regularly play as soloists, in various chamber groups and in some of the main european orchestras, among which are the Orchestra Nazionale della RAI, the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana di Lugano, the Orchestra Sinfonica dei Pomeriggi Musicali di Milano, the Orchestra Filarmonica Italiana, the Orchestra Sinfonica della Fondazione A. Toscanini di Parma, the Orchestra da Camera di Padova e del Veneto, the Nextime Ensemble, the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, the Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, the Teatro Regio di Parma and the Teatro Regio di Torino, the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale di Firenze, the Solisti Veneti, the Orchestra Verdi di Milano, the Orquesta Excelencia di Madrid, the Camerata Salzburg and the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne.
Since its foundation the group has collaborated with internationally renowned musicians including clarinetist Davide Bandieri and pianists Olaf John Laneri and Nathalie Dang.
Charles Edouard Lefebvre: (b Paris, 19 June 1843; d Aix-les-Bains, 8 Sept 1917). French composer. A son of the celebrated painter Jules Lefebvre (1805–82), he studied law before enrolling at the Paris Conservatoire, where he was taught by Ambroise Thomas and Gounod. In 1870 he shared the Prix de Rome with Henri Maréchal for his cantata Le jugement de Dieu. After his stay in Italy he toured Greece and the orient, returning to Paris in 1873. Twice awarded the Prix Chartier, in 1884 and 1891, he replaced Benjamin Godard in 1895 as professor of the ensemble class at the Conservatoire. He spent most of his life in Paris, where he devoted himself to composition as well as teaching. His article ‘Les formes de la musique instrumentale’ is published in EMDC, II/v (Paris, 1930), 3121–3129.
Claude Debussy: (b St Germain-en-Laye, 22 Aug 1862; d Paris, 25 March 1918). French composer. One of the most important musicians of his time, his harmonic innovations had a profound influence on generations of composers. He made a decisive move away from Wagnerism in his only complete opera Pelléas et Mélisande, and in his works for piano and for orchestra he created new genres and revealed a range of timbre and colour which indicated a highly original musical aesthetic.
Henri Gagnebin: (b Liège, 13 March 1886; d Geneva, 2 June 1977). Swiss composer, teacher and organist. He received his musical education in Lausanne, Berlin, Geneva (where he studied with Otto Barblan, Oscar Schulz and Joseph Lauber) and Paris, taking lessons from d’Indy at the Schola Cantorum; he also studied the piano with Blanche Selva. During this period he worked as a Protestant church organist in Paris, Lausanne and Geneva. He finally settled in Switzerland in 1916, teaching music history and the organ at the conservatories of Lausanne, Neuchâtel and Geneva. In 1925 he was appointed director of the Geneva Conservatoire, a post he held until 1957, and in 1938 he founded the Geneva International Competition for Musical Performance, which gained a worldwide reputation and over which Gagnebin continued to preside until 1959. As a result of this activity he was made president of the Federation of International Competitions, and sat on the juries of many contests; he also became known as an organist, lecturer and musicologist. Among the awards made to him were the Prize of the City of Geneva (1961), an honorary doctorate of Geneva University and an honorary fellowship of the Royal Academy of Music, London.
His output is large and covers all genres except opera. Strongly influenced at first by Franck and d’Indy, his music evolved beyond them to incorporate some of the new developments of his contemporaries, notably Stravinsky. Gagnebin avoided external effect and constructed his music with care; the most characteristic features of his work are a deep faith expressed through the use of Protestant psalmody, and a kindly, colourful humour.
Paul Lacombe: (b Carcassonne, 11 July 1837; d Carcassonne, 5 June 1927). French composer. Although he travelled widely in Europe, he resided in his native town until his death. His only formal education was acquired from a local organist and former Paris Conservatoire pupil, François Teysserre, but he attentively studied the works of established masters. He was an admirer of Bizet, with whom he corresponded from 1866, and a personal friend of Saint-Saëns. In 1901 he was elected a corresponding member of the Institut and the following year he was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.
Lacombe belonged to a generation of French composers who, inspired by the achievements of Mendelssohn and Schumann, wished to see symphonic and chamber music placed on a sound footing in France after the Franco-Prussian war. Many of his works were first performed by the Société Nationale de Musique, an organization he helped found in 1871 for the promotion of new French music. Although his compositions are technically assured, most of them lack the originality and spontaneity necessary to escape the powerful influence of contemporary German composers. Theatrical works are notably absent from his more than 150 opus numbers. He continued to compose until after his 80th birthday, and his output consists mainly of small piano pieces, chamber music, orchestral works and approximately 120 songs. His first violin sonata was performed by Sarasate in 1869 and his Third Symphony was awarded the prize of the Société des Compositeurs de Musique in 1886. Numerous works were left in manuscript.
Pierre Vellones [Rousseau, Pierre]: (b Paris, 29 March 1889; d Paris, 17 July 1939). French composer. He began his musical studies with Jean Hugues Louvier, and then taught himself. His wish to become a professional musician clashed with his father’s will, and he was obliged to study medicine; he worked as a doctor until his early death, and was a pioneer in the use of electrotherapy. However, composition was his second profession, and he soon made his mark with works whose originality won him a considerable place in the musical life of Paris between the wars. All his life Vellones showed a lively interest in new timbres and unusual instrumental ensembles; from 1930 onwards he was one of the first composers to write for the ondes martenot. Another of his favourite instruments was the saxophone, for which he wrote a concerto, and which he used in various ensembles including symphonic jazz groups. He was also fascinated by percussion, and he introduced Tibetan instruments into his ballet Le paradis d’Amitabha.
Théodore Dubois: (b Rosnay, Marne, 24 Aug 1837; d Paris, 11 June 1924). French composer, organist and teacher. He was born into a modest, non-musical family in a village near Reims. His father was a basket maker, his grandfather a primary school teacher. When he made rapid progress in his piano studies with Louis Fanart, choirmaster of Reims Cathedral, the mayor of Rosnay, the Vicomte Eugène de Breuil, introduced him to professors at the Paris Conservatoire and provided lodging when he was accepted there in 1854. Studying the piano with Marmontel, the organ with Benoist, harmony with Bazin, and fugue and counterpoint with Ambroise Thomas, Dubois earned a series of prizes in harmony (1856), fugue (1857) and the organ (1859) before winning the Prix de Rome in composition in 1861. At the Villa Medici in Rome he became enamoured of Palestrina’s music and began friendships with his future colleagues, Paladilhe, Guiraud, Bourgault-Ducoudray and Massenet. While at the Conservatoire, he played the organ at St Louis-des-Invalides from 1855, and after 1858 at Ste Clotilde (under César Franck); he was choirmaster there from 1863 to 1869 and at the Société des Concerts in the early 1870s. He then moved to the Madeleine, and replaced Saint-Saëns as organist in 1877. He also taught at the Conservatoire, starting with harmony (1871–91), then composition (1891–6), then serving as inspector of musical education (1884–96) and finally as director of the Conservatoire (1896–1905). Believing that students should have a solid understanding of theory before studying modern masters, he published a number of theoretical treatises. Praised for their clarity and precision and translated into other languages, some are still used today. His other writings include Notice sur Charles Gounod (Paris, 1894) and ‘L’enseignement musical’ (EMDC, II/vi, 1931, pp.3437–71).
Musically, Dubois is perhaps best known for his religious works, some of which have remained in the repertory of French churches for decades. The oratorio Les sept paroles du Christ (1867), for example, was performed by the Société des Concerts twice in 1872 and continued to be used at Good Friday concerts until well into the 20th century. Ernest Reyer, who attended its première at Ste Clotilde, said the score was ‘as important as a comic opera, its style resembling 16th-century Italian music given new life with modern harmonies and varied rhythms’. Le paradis perdu won the City of Paris Prize and was performed twice at the Concerts Colonne in 1878. The intervallic writing and phrasing in his sacred works make it easy music to sing, while the skilful use of vocal groups produces a grand effect. Despite the banality of certain repetitions in its Gloria, the Messe brève in E for three voices was reputedly sung ‘almost everywhere’, while the Messe solennelle de Saint-Rémi and the Messe de la Délivrance (which cites Parsifal in its Sanctus) were enjoyed for their dramatic, grandiose effects. Throughout his life, Dubois also wrote secular works for chorus, especially for unaccompanied male chorus. Except for a patriotic sonnet, France (1916), his choral scenes are generally on themes of nature.
Although Dubois’ dramatic works are less well known today, many were published by the prestigious house of Heugel. For the most part, they present simple, idealistic love stories in rustic, picturesque settings, perhaps reflecting Dubois’ own background (many were written in Rosnay, where he returned to compose each summer). Despite their banal subjects, two modest one-act comic operas, La Guzla de l’émir (1873) and Le pain bis (1879), were praised for ‘having all that it takes to succeed’. The première of his three-act ballet, La farandole, commissioned by the Opéra in 1882 and set in Provence, was reputedly the first occasion during which electricity was used extensively at the Opéra. Here and in his two subsequent operas, Aben-Hamet (1884) and the popular Xavière (composed between 1886 and 1894), light, graceful melodies and poetic fantasy abound, in marked contrast with the austerity of his sacred music. In one section of Xavière the priest recounts the legend of St Francis and the birds; in another, Dubois incorporates indigenous French folksongs provided by Vincent d’Indy. While using short, periodic, melodic structures inspired by Gounod, these works also make reference to Wagner, whose music Dubois had heard in Bayreuth. The third act of Aben-Hamet incorporates melodic and harmonic aspects of the Tristan Prelude, while Xavière employs leitmotifs and continuous dialogue with symphonic accompaniment. The grand opéra Circé (1896) never reached the stage, although it reflected the national obsession with exotic enchantresses who use their beauty to liberate their countries from oppressive invaders.
Dubois’ interest in instrumental music grew after he helped to found the Société Nationale in 1871. The overture Frithiof, first performed by the Société Nationale in 1880, entered the repertory of all the principal French orchestras of the time. His oeuvre includes more than 200 chamber works of uneven quality, as well as several sets of songs and piano pieces.
Dubois was a man of discipline and integrity, well liked by his peers. His music was admired for its French character and solid construction, elegance and charm, and purity of style and sentiment. Although he resisted becoming too much involved in the most important musical debates of the time, the clarity and idealism of his music were enough to win him the seat vacated by Gounod in 1894 at the Académie des Beaux-Arts.