Howdle on Ibert

by Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham

Jacques Ibert (1890-1962): Divertissement (1930)

i. Introduction
ii. Cortège
iii. Nocturne
iv. Valse
v. Parade
vi. Finale

Jacques Ibert was a French composer who studied at the Paris Conservatoire and won its top prize, the ‘Prix de Rome’ at his first attempt, despite his studies having been interrupted by service in World War I. Divertissement is a collection of pieces drawn from the score Ibert produced for the film production of the farcical nineteenth century play, The Italian Straw Hat by French dramatist Labiche. Labiche’s comedy recounts the adventures of a nervous bridegroom on his wedding day as he attempts to find a hat to replace one belonging to a lady that his horse has eaten! His bride to be follows his frantic mission everywhere he goes, along with her suspicious father and the entire wedding party who think they are following the bridegroom to the ceremony.

Throughout the six movements, Ibert, skilfully manages to weave his own music with many other styles including blues, jazz, Viennese waltzes and music hall tunes. There’s even some spiky modernist dissonance too. Hidden within the piece’s light- hearted atmosphere, one can also hear some recognisable melodies, such as Strauss’s Blue Danube and even the parody quotation of Mendelssohn’s well-known Wedding March. These provide yet more of the piece’s many surprises…

Charlotte Howdle,  Lower Sixth