Like all of the composers featured on this recording, Noël-Gallon (1891-1968) received his musical training at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1910, at the age of nineteen, he won the Grand Prix de Rome. Primarily known as a composer and teacher, Gallon eventually taught solfege and counterpoint at the Conservatoire. His perhaps explains the Baroque ties apparent throughout his Suite en trio, composed in 1933. The titles of three of the suite’s four movements refer to Baroque dances: Allemande, Sarabande, and Tambourin. The second movement’s title, Fugue, refers to the most employed compositional process of the Baroque period. Fluent in the art of counterpoint, Noël-Gallon’s Suite exhibits a strong contrapuntal texture throughout. The melody, however, which always predominates the texture, lends a Classical flavor to the piece and makes the music accessible to the listener.
Eugène Bozza (1905-1991), acclaimed for his substantial body of chamber repertoire specifically for wind instruments, is the most familiar name on the CD. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and won the premiers prix in 1924, 1930, and 1934, and the Prix de Rome in 1934. Suite brève en trio, composed in 1947 and dedicated to Tony Aubin, offers rhythmic complexity, technical brilliance, and melodic fluency rooted in tonality. A light and whimsical work, the Suite is as enjoyable to play as it is to hear.
Though few would recognize his name, millions are familiar with Marius Constant’s most famous composition: the signature theme of television’s Twilight Zone. The French composer was born in Romania in 1925 and attended the Bucharest Conservatory. After winning the Enesco Prize in 1944 he moved to Paris to study with Messiaen, Aubin, and Nadia Boulanger at the Paris Conservatoire. Dedicated to compositional exploration, he was a member of the “Groupe de Recherche de Musique Concrète” (electronic music studio) and founder of the contemporary music ensemble Ars Nova. Constant also taught at the Paris Conservatoire (1979-1988) and Stanford University in California, served as director of Dance at the Paris Opera (1973-78), and won the Italia Prize (1952 and 1987), the Koussevitzky Prize (1962), the Grand Prix Nationale de al Musique (1969), and the “Victories” de la Musique (1991), Trio for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1950) is characterized by its rhythmic drive, technical complexities, and use of extreme ranges for all of the instruments. The third movement is particularly noteworthy for its long melodic phrases and lush harmonies filled with suspensions. Atypical of compositions for reed trio, the fourth movement features and extended cadenza for the clarinet.
Jeanine Rueff, born in Paris in 1922, is one of the most gifted female composers of the twentieth century. She was a student of Henri Busser at the Paris Conservatoire and won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1948. She wrote extensively for saxophone, saxhorn (a valved brass instrument and predecessor of the alto horn, euphonium, and baritone horn), clarinet, and cornet, and her compositions for saxophone are often used as required contest solos. Rueff’s music, which tends to be very difficult technically, challenges the ensemble as much as it does the individual musicians. Trois Pièces, written in 1957, exemplifies those challenges, especially through its rhythmic intricacies and complications. Rueff’s consistent and extensive use of ties, hemiolas, polyrhythms, and cross-rhythms tend to obscure the meters and their downbeats. In fact, only the third movement begins with and ends on a downbeat. All of these abstruse rhythmical effects are exacerbated by the work’s predominantly polyphonic texture.
Pierre Wissmer (1915-1992) was born in Geneva where he began his musical studies. In 1935 he went to Paris specifically to study composition at the Paris Conservatoire, counterpoint and fugue at the Schola Cantorum, and conducting at the Ecole Normale. He eventually served as the honorary director of the Schola Cantorum and director of the Ecole Nationale de Musique, Le Mans. Sèrènade, written in 1938, is reminiscent of fifteenth-century Burgundian compositions in its style and harmonic language, especially with regard to the Burgundian cadences and open fifths prevalent throughout the work. The second movement, Chanson, is modeled on the three-voiced chansons popular among the composers of the fifteenth-century Burgundian school and employs a cantus that is first presented in the oboe and varied throughout by all three instruments.