20th Century French Reed Trios


  • Artist(s): Fabien Thouand, Fabrizio Meloni, Gabriele Screpis
  • Composer(s): Alexandre Tansman, Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, Henri Tomasi, Jacques Ibert, Jean Françaix
  • EAN Code: 7.46160915067
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Bassoon, Clarinet, Oboe
  • Period: Modern
  • Publication year: 2022

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A reed trio combines three instruments whose timbre is similar but subtly different; this encourages gifted composers – and particularly those with a penchant for timbral finesses – to explore the variety of nuances it can produce. In this ensemble, the three woodwinds’ interaction highlights their kinship as well as their unique personalities. They have in common the variety of sound, ranging from deep expressiveness to agility and virtuosity; in consequence, this ensemble expresses both an ironic, playful and good-humoured style, and one characterized by lyricism. At the same time, this ensemble requires great skill of the composer, given the absolute transparency of the counterpoint it produces.
All of these qualities – mastery of the compositional techniques, irony, agility, clarity, expressiveness, timbral exploration – are typical for all composers recorded in this programme, which offers us a fascinating itinerary through the output of French music for reed Trio in the twentieth century.
The programme opens with a work by Jean Françaix. Born in Le Mans, France, he received his education in a family of professional musicians, who encouraged him to develop his talent and gave him the instruments for doing so. He had also the chance of studying with one of the greatest musicians and pedagogues of contemporaneous France, Nadia Boulanger, who was particularly proud of her student. Françaix’ style is unique, and yet very much rooted in the French tradition, which he represents very efficaciously through his adoption of a nonchalant, light-hearted, joyful style, though not in the least devoid of profundity and of great elegance. His interest in winds and their potential was constant, and he greatly profited from the presence, in Paris, of a reed trio, the Trio d’anches de Paris, founded in 1927 by bassoonist Fernand Oubradous and composed also by Myrtil Morel (oboe) and Pierre Lefebvre (clarinet). Perhaps due to Oubradous’ exceptional skills, the bassoon part of Françaix’ Trio is extremely challenging, though it never loses the impression of divertissement which characterizes the composer so deeply. Indeed, the title (Divertissement) of the piece recorded here closely corresponds to one of Françaix’ main aesthetical choices, and to one which refers us back to the Classical Divertimento tradition (such as it was represented by Mozart’s Trio-Divertimenti KV 439B). In spite of this, lyrical passages are not missing, particularly in the rhapsodic and backward-looking Prelude and in the Elegie. By way of contrast, the second movement and the concluding Scherzo provide some kind of comic relief, while presenting arduous difficulties to the players. Françaix recalls the composition of this Trio as follows: “[In 1947] I composed a ‘Reed Trio’ (a divertissement for oboe, clarinet and bassoon) which was quite an undertaking: the smaller the ‘Aeolian consort,’ the greater the danger of squeezing all the breath out of ones long-suffering performers by expecting them to play impossibly long musical phrases. Dear listeners, I know you may begin to doze off if a piece goes on too long, but my wish is that you should follow the example of the wise virgins and keep awake during my Trio”.
Françaix’ irony does not diminish the beauty of his music, which demonstrates, among other virtues, the composer’s absolute mastery of the wind instruments’ technique: this corresponds to his fondness for these instruments, leading him to write probably the largest repertoire for winds authored by a single twentieth-century composer of repute.
Georges Auric’s Trio dates from about a decade earlier than Françaix’ Divertissement. Yet, the style of the two works has many points in contact – and this despite the fact that their composition dates “frame” the horrors of World War II. Different from Françaix, Auric belonged in the Six, along with Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger, Tailleferre etc.
Auric had been an exceptionally gifted child prodigy, whose works were performed even before his sixteenth birthday, and whose output was already remarkable – in terms of quantity and quality – at that time. Later he completed his education at the Conservatoire of Paris, and he finished his training under the guidance of two of the major French musicians of the era, i.e. Vincent d’Indy and Albert Roussel, who praised him as “the Rimbaud of music”. He would cooperate on several occasions with Jacques Cocteau for projects of interdisciplinary artistry.
His Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon is a typical example of his style and of his aesthetical perspective. Articulated into three movements, it embodies the cheerful and playful atmosphere found in several of Auric’s works. Décidé, the opening piece, where the lead is taken by the clarinet, is ebullient with lively tunes; it is written in something akin to a Sonata allegro form, even though the sphere belonging to the first theme is disproportionately long in comparison with that of the second theme. The second movement is a touching and highly decorated Romance, which makes full use of the instruments’ lyrical potential and of their ornamenting skills. In the piquant Finale, Auric manages to combine several genres and forms: a set of variations, a waltz and a rondeau.
The fundamental contribution to the repertoire of reed trio provided by the Trio d’anches founded by Oubradous cannot be overestimated. Also in the case of Jacques Ibert, the availability of such an excellent ensemble proved stimulating for the composer. Ibert was born in Paris in 1890, and obtained many First Prizes at the Conservatory of Paris at a very young age, before winning the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1919 (which came after a decoration for his service during World War I). He would maintain an important tie with Rome, where he would be the director of the Académie Française from 1937 to 1960, with the only exception of the war years, due to his political stances.
His Cinq pieces en trio are five miniatures, where the two even-numbered slower movements are framed by the odd-numbered Allegros. Each of the five movements is clearly characterized, and provides for pleasant listening thanks to their catchy tunes, which are perfectly tailored onto the idiosyncrasies of the three instruments. The first movement is in a march tempo, with a pleasant cheerfulness. After the second movement’s cogitabund tones, the third revitalizes the Baroque and Classical dance of the Minuet, and includes a delightful passage imitating the cuckoo. Once more, the slower paced fourth movement provides for some kind of respite, whilst the concluding movement resumes the first’s martial atmosphere while tempering it with memories of folk music. These Five Pieces successfully alternate a humorous vein with tenderness, and fondly cite the atmosphere of a lost Classicism.
Baroque reminiscences also populate the Suite pour Trio d’Anches written by Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986). A Polish Jew, born in Warsaw, he completed his musical education in his home country, but found both his expressive vein and the recognition he deserved in the Ville Lumière, where he settled in 1919. He was close to Igor Stravinsky, whose influence is clearly discernible in Tansman’s own music – as happens also with the Trio recorded here, whose rhythmical drive owes much to the Russian composer’s approach.
Tansman integrated himself perfectly within the French capital’s musical elite, and within its society – so much so that he earned French citizenship. In spite of this, he was forced to flee his country of election in 1938, due to the persecution against the Jews; he emigrated to the USA thanks to the influence of Charlie Chaplin. After the war, however, he was back to Paris, where he lived until his death.
His Suite for Wind Trio dates back to the first years after the War. It is perhaps for this reason (i.e. in response to the utmost “disorder” of War) that it explores the order and clarity of the structures of Baroque music, borrowing the Trio Sonata’s form (four movements alternating slow and fast) and the precise articulation of eighteenth-century wind music.
More than mere allusions to the Baroque are also found in Milhaud’s Suite d’après Corrette. At a time when musical historicism was still in its cradle, everything that sounded “old” could be applied to antiquity. Thus, Milhaud decided to rework and arrange some pieces by eighteenth-century French composer Michel Corrette and to turn them into incidental music for a performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in French – as part of a series of three Shakespearean productions, also including Julius Ceasar and Macbeth. The score for reed trio was performed, once more, by the Trio d’Anches; shortly after, Milhaud transformed this incidental music into a Suite, in which form it is presented here. The occasional roughness and the provocative musical gestures inserted by Milhaud into the otherwise polite and elegant music by Corrette (including, here again, a brusquer rendition of a cuckoo imitation) represent the fingerprint of Milhaud’s belonging in The Six.
This album also includes the Concert Champêtre by Henri Tomasi, written in 1938 and conceived, once more, for the legendary Trio d’Anches. Here too we find some traits which underwrite several of the works recorded on this CD: the short duration of its five movements, the Baroque inspiration – with a modernizing approach – and the allusions to folk music.
Tomasi’s family was from Corsica, and he proudly upheld his ancestry in his music. In his Concert, inspired by the “concentus” approach (making music together) rather than by the “certamen” (the soloist’s struggle against the orchestra), we find once more a Tambourin, as in Milhaud’s work, allowing us to compare the two musicians’ different styles and what they shared.
Together, the pieces recorded here offer us a thorough panorama on how the same musical ensemble (i.e. the reed trio) in a similar setting (i.e. France in the twentieth century) and with similar aesthetical approaches (Neoclassicism) could give life to a variety of musical styles, which are still unified by a shared perspective. 7
Chiara Bertoglio © 2022


Fabien Thouand
In 1996 Fabien Thouand was awarded first prize of the Conservatoire National de Region de Paris, where he studied in the class Jean-Claude Jaboulay. He then pursued his studies at the CNSM de Paris, initially under the guidance of Jacques Tys and Jean-Louis Capezzali, winning first prize unanimously in 2000, and then partaking in the master course of Maurice Bourgue there the following year. In 2001 Thouand won the 2nd prize in the “Prague Spring International Music Competition” and the 3rd prize in the “Giuseppe Tomassini” international competition in Petritoli. He was awarded the 3rd prize at the “Toulon Wind Instruments International Competition” in May 2002. Since then he has pursued a career in France and abroad, specializing in the field of orchestral and chamber repertoire. As a soloist, he has been invited to perform with orchestras including the ones of La Monnaie (Bruxelles),Bayerischer  Rundfunk Symphonie Orchester, London Symphonie Orchestra, Bayerische Staatsoper (Munich), Opera de Lyon, Bamberger Symphoniker the Camerata Salzburg as well as the Toulouse National Chamber Orchestra and the Chamber Ochestra of Europe. Furthermore, he has played under the baton of renowned conductors such as Ricardo Muti, Loreen Maazel, Zubin Metha, Yuri Termikanov, Kurt Mazur, Charles Dutoit, Claudio Abbado, Valery Gergiev and Daniel Barenboim. Since 2004 he is principal oboe at the orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Beyond his career as a performing musician, he is also active as a teacher, being nominated assistant teacher at the CNSM of Lyon in 2010. He's now principal teacher at the Lugano School of Music in 2011 and at the Royal Collage of Music of London.

Fabrizio Meloni, since 1984, is the First Solo clarinet chair of the Orchestra and the Philharmonica of La Scala Theatre in Milan. He has finished his clarinet studies at Milan’s Conservarory “G. Veri” with summa cum laude and the special mention for his artistic achievement.Winner dozens of national and international prizes (ARD Muchen, 1987 and Prague , 1987, among all) he has been partner of soloists of international reputation: Bruno Canino, Alexander Lonquich, Michele Campanella, Heinrich Schiff, Friederich Gulda, Nazzareno Carusi, Editha Gruberova, the Hagen Quartet, Myung-Whun Chung, Philip Moll, Riccardo Muti and Daniel Barenboim. He has toured the United States and Israel with the “Quintetto a fiati Italiano”, performing works specially dedicated to this ensemble by Luciano Berio (with whom he has collaborated along the years 1989-1994) and Salvatore Sciarrino. With Nuovo Quintetto Italiano, founded in 2003, he has already toured South America and Southeast Asia, receiving enthousiastic contents of public and critic. The same program of Italian music has been collected in the CD “I fiati all’Opera” (DAD Records).He has realised various recordings: the Sinfonia Concertante and the Concert K 622 for clarinet and orchestra with the Philharmonic Orchestra of La Scala Theatre, conducted by Riccardo Muti; Pulcherrima Ignota with the Bairav Ensemble: tribute to the tzigane music in the world; Duo Obliquo with Carl Boccadoro (composer, pianist and percussionist); the Mozart’s and Brahms’ Quintets for clarinet and strings; the Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat in the double version for trio and settimino with Domenico Nordio, Giorgia Tommasi and I Solisti della Scala and a CD dedicated to Mercadante’s unpublished works.For the most prestigious Italian musical magazine, Amadeus, in 2006 he has published the concertos for Clarinet and orchestra by Rossini, Donizetti and Mercadante with Philharmonic Academy in Verona; and the two Brahms’ Sonatas Op. 120 for clarinet and piano with Nazzareno Carusi.Cord Garben, artistic director of all Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s discographical productions for more than fiftheen years, has reviewed his dedut, in DUO with Nazzareno Carusi, at Brahms-Gesellshaft in Hamburg on November 2007: I musicisti hanno brillato d’un livello tecnico incredibile e spericolato. Un insieme praticamente perfetto e una scala completa di espedienti espressivi hanno fatto dell’ascolto un’avventura indimenticabile”.He has given masterclasses at the Paris’ Conservatory of Music, the Advantaced Conservatory of Italian Switzerland in Lugano, the Tokyo and Osaka University, the New York’s Manhattan School, the Chicago’s NorthEastern Illinois University, the Music Academy of the West in Los Angeles and the Academy of La Scala Theater. Annual courses: Associazione Lirico Musicale “Giovani all’Opera”, Tomadini Conservatory in Udine, Conservatorio de Musica in Zaragoza (Spain) and Istituto Musicale “Angelo Masini” in Cesena.Among his latest projects: “Il clarinetto nel Jazz e nel’900 italiano”, the second volume (CD+DVD) belonging to DUETS line, dedicated to the meeting between contemporary jazz and Italian music of the Twentieth Century, created with Limen music & arts in collaboration with Warner Chapell Music Italian music edition, and the recording of Jean Françaix’s, Carl Nielsen’s and Aaron Copland’s Concertos, unpublished project for an Italian musician.With Limen music & arts he has also published two CD+DVD box sets: the first is dedicated to Mozart’s and Brahms’ Quintets for clarinet and string quartet, with some of the pricipal instrumentalists of La Scala Orchestra, the second one is performed in DUO with the Japanese pianist Takahiro Yoshikawa.He is author of the book “Il clarinetto”, published by Zecchini Editore, coming soon also in english version.Is Principal Soloist at the Orchestra Sinfonica Abruzzese.The tv channel Sky-Classica has devoted a documentary, called “Notevoli”, to his artistic life and a special edited by TVSAT2000.

Gabriele Screpis
Solo Bassoon of the Teatro alla Scala Milano Orchestra and its Philharmonic. Gabriele Screpis was born in Genoa, Italy. He completed his musical studies at the Conservatory “Niccolò Paganini” in his town, graduating with magna cum laudae. Since when he was young, he used to win several international auditions. In addition to the Orchestra’s activity, he also holds his solo carreer, which includes Chamber Music too. He took part in many Chamber Music Seasons among these: Aix en Provence Festival, International Music Weeks in Naples, the Chamber Music Season of La Scala Theatre and The National Academy of S. Cecila in Rome. He has performed all over the world in some of the most prestigious halls such as Carnegie Hall in New York, Tonhalle in Zurich, Suntory Hall in Tokyo and San Petersbourg Philarmonic Hall. It also has to be underlined his precious cooperation with ”I Virtuosi della Scala”, with who he has performed in important theatres as La Scala and Musikverein in Wien. It must be said that he is a chairman for the Teatro alla Scala Academy too and he frequently holds masterclasses. Among his most relevant recording, there are those with “I Cameristi di Roma” with “ L’Ottetto Italiano” with “I Solisti della Scala” and the cd/dvd “18th Virtuoso Bassoon” . The recent publication of a cd of Vivaldi’s concertos for bassoon has received exellent acclaim from critics.


Alexandre [Aleksander] Tansman
(b Łódź, 12 June 1897; d Paris, 15 Nov 1986). French composer and pianist of Polish birth. Following studies at the Łódź Conservatory (1908–14) with Wojciech Gawronski and others, he moved to Warsaw where he completed the doctorate in law at the University of Warsaw (1918). He continued his piano studies with Piotr Rytel and took composition lessons with Henryk Melcer-Szczawiński. Although he won three prizes in the Polish National Music Competition of 1919 (for Impression, Preludium in B Major and Romance), critics considered his distinctive chromaticism and polytonality too bold. Disappointed with his reception in Poland, he moved to Paris, giving a début recital in February 1920. Soon after his arrival, he became friendly with Stravinsky and Ravel, both of whom encouraged and advised him. Stravinsky's repetitive, rhythmic patterns and Ravel's chords of the 11th and 13th influenced much of his inter-war music. Acquainted with many leading musical figures in Paris during these years, Tansman was part of the circle of foreign musicians, known as the Ecole de Paris, that included Martinů, Alexander Tcherepnin, Conrad Beck and Marcel Mihalovici. While his music retained many distinctively Polish features, such as Mazurka rhythms and Polish folk melodies, and while he wrote collections of Polonaises, Nocturnes, Impromptus, Waltzes and other Chopinesque miniatures, neo-classical traits appear in works such as the Sonata rustica (1925), the Sonatine for flute and piano (1925), the Symphony no.2 (1926) and the Second Piano Concerto (1927). A more romantic approach to neo-classicism is evident in his fairy tale ballet Le jardin du paradis (1922) and the first of his seven operas, La nuit kurde (1927). Although he never completely abandoned a diatonic framework, critics of the 1920s and 30s described his harmony at times as Scriabinesque and atonal. His Hebraic background provided compositional stimulus for works including Rapsodie hébraïque (1933) and The Genesis (1944), although this influence became more prominent in his postwar music.

Darius Milhaud: (b Marseilles, 4 Sept 1892; d Geneva, 22 June 1974). French composer. He was associated with the avant garde of the 1920s, whose abundant production reflects all musical genres. A pioneer in the use of percussion, polytonality, jazz and aleatory techniques, his music allies lyricism with often complex harmonies. Though his sources of inspiration were many and varied, his music has compelling stylistic unity.

Georges Auric
(b Lodève, 15 Feb 1899; d Paris, 23 July 1983). French composer. He spent his childhood in Montpellier, studying at the local conservatory and receiving piano lessons from Louis Combes who introduced him to the music of Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky. He independently discovered the music of Satie in the periodical Musica. Combes also presented him to Déodat de Séverac and gave him free range of his extensive library of modern French literature. Auric was composing from the age of ten (later destroying most of his earliest works), and in 1913 his parents moved to the capital so that he could enter the Paris Conservatoire. Schmitt and Koechlin took great interest in him, as did Roussel, who in 1914 arranged a performance of his songs Trois interludes, a charming work of remarkable maturity.

Henri Tomasi (b Marseilles, 17 Aug 1901; d Paris, 13 Jan 1971). French composer and conductor of Corsican descent. A pupil of Gaubert and others at the Paris Conservatoire, he won the Prix de Rome in 1927 and the Grand Prix de la Musique Française in 1952. During the 1930s he was one of the founders, alongside Prokofiev, Poulenc, Milhaud and Honegger, of the contemporary music group ‘Triton’. He divided his career equally between composing and conducting, and he conducted at many opera houses throughout the world. As a prolific composer, his orchestral music is important, especially the concertos he wrote for solo instruments and orchestra. However, he was attracted above all to the theatre, and it was two of his operas, L'Atlantide and Miguel Mañara, that established his reputation. Miguel Mañara tells of a mystical Don Juan who has renounced debauchery. The composer's own origins are reflected in Sampiero Corso, which deals with the oppression of Corsica by the Genoese in the 16th century. In Ulysse, Ulysses is demystified, returning amid ordinary sailors. Tomasi's postwar works reflect a disillusionment with mankind; L'éloge de la folie, which he described as a cross between opera and ballet, includes references to Nazism and napalm. Tomasi also composed several ballets, and several of his orchestral works were adapted for dance. Before his death he had been working on an operatic version of Hamlet.

His music is intensely direct in feeling, occasionally dissonant and highly coloured; he absorbed influences from his French contemporaries while retaining an individual voice.

Jacques Ibert (b Paris, 15 Aug 1890; d Paris, 5 Feb 1962). French composer. His father was in the export trade, and his mother was a gifted pianist who had studied with Marmontel and Le Couppey, both teachers at the Paris Conservatoire. She used to play Chopin, Bach and Mozart, musicians for whom her son retained a particular liking. Ibert began learning the violin at the age of four, and then took piano lessons from Marie Dhéré (1867–1950), who came to occupy a special position in his life. It was through her that he was introduced to the Veber family, into which he later married. After obtaining his baccalaureat, Ibert decided to devote himself to composition, but he also had to earn a living by giving lessons, accompanying singers and writing programme notes. He became a cinema pianist and also began composing songs, some of which were published under the pseudonym William Berty. He joined Emile Pessard's harmony class at the Paris Conservatoire in 1910, went on to Gédalge's counterpoint class in 1912, and then studied composition with Paul Vidal in 1913. Gédalge was the most significant influence in his three years of training; Ibert described him as ‘an adviser, a confidant and a very good friend’. While Gédalge's teaching activities at the Conservatoire were confined to counterpoint, he also advised his pupils on orchestration and organized a private class for the best of them. It was in that class that Ibert met Honegger and Milhaud.

Jean (René Désiré) Françaix
(b Le Mans, 23 May 1912; d Paris, 25 Sept 1997). French composer and pianist. He was born into a musical family: his mother was a singer and teacher of singing, his father Alfred a composer, pianist, musicologist and director of the Le Mans Conservatoire, and it was they who shaped his earliest musical education. His precocious gifts were recognized by Ravel, who wrote to Alfred Françaix: ‘Among the child's gifts I observe above all the most fruitful an artist can possess, that of curiosity: you must not stifle these precious gifts now or ever, or risk letting this young sensibility wither.’