Murphy on Ibert

by Music at King Edward's School, Birmingham


Jacques Ibert (1890-1962): Cinq pièces en trio (1935)

The Parisian born Jacques Ibert received violin and piano lessons as a boy and later studied composition at the celebrated Paris Conservatoire. During his long and fruitful career, he composed in virtually every genre and, moreover, became one of the best known French composers of the 20th century.

The reed trio ensemble (oboe, clarinet and bassoon) became popular in the early 20th century, particularly after the assembly of the Paris Reed Trio by one Fernand Oubradous (1903-1986), a bassoonist, composer and conductor. Oubradous was somewhat of a polymath with a good sense of humour. When once asked to comment on reeds, he famously said, ‘have a lot of respect for them, but treat them as often as possible with contempt!’

Ibert and Oubradous became acquainted during the 1920s with the latter often conducting the prolific composer’s works. Cinq pièces was written in 1935 and dedicated to Oubradous. The work lasts for around nine minutes and is comprised of two andantes and three allegros, each sharply contrasting its preceding movement. Ibert’s genius lies in his ability to maintain strong musical unity and coherence throughout these contrasting movements, whilst also delivering a compositional style that is firmly neo-classical, charming and lyrical in character. Listen out for the wistful second Andante, which demonstrates more than a subtle nod to Stravinsky, before the final, jaunty Allegro concludes the work.

Peter Murphy, Divisions