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Sur un Sommet / On Top


Although less common than the string or the piano trio, the reed trio genre (oboe/clarinet/bassoon) attracted many 20th -century composers, most of them French, incidentally. This should not be surprising: throughout music history, French composers have always been known as colorists with a keen interest in wind instruments, their large variety of timbres enabling many sound combinations far more interesting than the sometimes "monochromatic" beauty of string instruments. Created in France in 1927, the first "official" wind trio "Le Trio d'anches de Paris" (Fernand Oubradous, Myrtil Morel and Pierre Lefebvre) commissioned many composers to write for them.

1. Sur un sommet, Jean-Baptiste Robin's five-movement trio (2016), harks back to this rich tradition and evokes the serenade - a genre in which wind instruments played a major role in the 18the century. The narrative program of the piece follows - in miniature, as it were - certain episodes of Richard Strauss' large Alpine Symphony (1915). Indeed, Sommet depicts the ascent of Mont Blanc by three members of the Orchestre des Pays de Savoie, as part of the festive celebrations of the ensemble's 30th anniversary.

2. Jubilations (Allegro). Our spirited climbers embark on their alpine challenge. An ostinato line of eighth notes persistently circulates through the three instrumental parts.

3. Nuit / Night (Lento). A brief chorale-like movement, punctuated by silences evokes night in a mountain shelter.

4. De l'aube jusqu'au cimes / From dawn to the summit (Luminoso). In this second Allegro, rhythmic textures get progressively more animated as sublime views unfold before the climbers' eyes at daybreak, such as the glare of light relecting off snow against a pure, bright sky. The syncopated rhythm of the bassoon ostinato follows the challenging ascent fraught with danger.

5. Les marches au sommet / The steps at the top (Lento). Another slow movement as the climbers make one last effort to rach the top, despite slower, heavier steps and shortness of breath. The final crescendo sees them reaching their goal.

Postlude (Allegro). Home and dry! A short but rhythmical spiced finale accompanies the climbers'descent.