Ibert – Trois Pièces Brèves for Wind Quintet

by Max Derrickson

By the beginning of the 1800’s, wind ensemble music for eight winds in pairs, called harmoniemusik, was in great fashion.  Like Mozart’s serenades (such as his Eine Kleine Nachtmusik), these wind octets were meant to accompany social gatherings – almost like background music – but the octet added additional color and volume to what were Mozart’s string ensemble equivalents.  As one observer pointed out, “Out of doors [they] sounded better than strings; indoors they could hold their own against the clatter of dishes.”  From these wind octets that were all the rage, the Italian-born composer, [. . .]  Thus was born the wind quintet, although it took nearly a century for the genre to gain its established place in the repertoire.

Jacques Ibert
(Born in Paris in 1890; died in Paris in 1962)

Trois Pièces Brèves
1. Assez lent, allegro scherzando
2. Andante
3. Allegro

French composer Jacques Ibert was one of the early 20th Century composers to rediscover the wind quintet as a form, though he composed only one.  In the wake of a turbulent new millennium and World War I which thrust the Western world into a new [. . .] Neo-Classicism was born, with a return to simplicity, clean lines and structural forms, wrapped in 20th Century harmony.  Ibert, one of France’s composers looking for new musical expression, was for a time at the forefront of Neo-Classicism.  It was natural that he would turn in 1930, at least briefly, to the Classical promise of the wind quintet, and from that was born one of his most cherished chamber works: Trois Pièces Brèves.

Ibert’s charming Quintet shows him at his colorful and inventive best.  He found the five-wind ensemble (flute, clarinet, oboe, French horn and bassoon) to be an opportunity to show boundless colors in simple combinations.  He also delighted in writing works as sheer entertainment, which Trois Pièces Brèves provides brilliantly.  The rather puffed-up, and lovely, introductory fanfare of the first movement [. . .]  The second movement is a surprise in color and[. . .]  In the finale, Ibert again flexes his talent for sonority – all five instruments here combine for some wonderful[. . .], and hints of good old-fashioned 1930’s dance hall music.  Trois Pièces Brèves is a delicious wonder, and interestingly, Ibert fashioned it so that its movements could be played [. . .].