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Vincent d’Indy's 
d'été à la Montagne"
© 2006 by Don Robertson
Introduction written by Don Robertson for the score published by Musikproducktion Höflich. The score is available from that company  

-   CD of "Jour d'été à la Montagne" at Amazon.com

-   This article in German

     Vincent d'Indy composed his triptyque symphonique called Jour d'été à la Montagne (Summer Day in the Mountains) in 1905. The three-movement work is based on a poem written by the composer's brother-in-law about the Ardèche, a beautiful region in south-central France, and it encompasses an entire summer day...from the darkness before the breaking of dawn to the darkness that comes after the sun has set. It is written in cyclic form, a compositional form that d'Indy was very interested in. In this case, the opening music from the first movement reappears at the end of the third movement.
    Jour d'été à la Montagne is a very impressive score and the music is beautiful...another work by Vincent d'Indy that will most likely be added to the modern concert repertoire once the importance of this composer is finally recognized.  It is also an excellent example of program music and would fit well as music for a television program featuring the Ardèche region. Some might regard the work as a symphony, but d'Indy wrote Marcel Labey that the new work was neither a suite nor a symphony. It received its first performance on the 18th of February, 1906 at the Concerts Colonne in Paris and was published later that year by Durand.
     One wonders if the inspiration to write a piece of music so descriptive of nature could have been the result of d'Indy's friendship with Debussy, who had been working on his own three-movement nature piece,
La Mer, since 1903. La Mer was first performed on October 15, 1905, and by that time d'Indy had probably already finished his own work.  Certainly Debussy's composition was not unknown to d'Indy before that time, however. d'Indy enjoyed Debussy's orchestral music and during December of 1905, he conducted it while on a tour of American cities with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  d'Indy's work is quite different than that of Debussy, however. Beside the fact that La Mer is descriptive of the ocean while d'Indy's music is all about the countryside, d'Indy held a different opinion of how themes should be used in orchestral music. He wrote to Octave Maus in September, 1904: "I attach more and more importance to the theme in symphonic music, and the more I go, the more I believe that the pure decorative art ("style papier peint") that is now used in the symphonic style, and by Debussy himself, is a transitory art that lacks a solid foundation." We shall see that in this work, d'Indy makes full use of thematic material, unlike La Mer where some motifs are used, but complete themes appear in a few places only. Additionally, this work was not d'Indy's first foray into the land of 'nature' program music (see the score for Tableaux de Voyage).
     One more comment about the score: d'Indy included a piano in
Jour d'été à la Montagne, something that was very unusual at that time.
     Let's proceed to the music. Fortunately, d'Indy left us with a description in his
Cours de Composition Musicale, Premier Livre, and because of that, we are privy to d'Indy's intentions for this remarkable composition.

 1st Movement

     The first movement Aurore, meaning daybreak or dawn, describes the sunlight entering little by little, transforming the night into to a sunny, cloudless day. It is in binary form, the first half called night, the second day. The music begins with the darkness of pre-dawn, the strings playing the note C in octaves, to which is gradually added the note G (a bare fifth). A clarinet and bassoon create the sinister sounds of nocturnal birds, awake only during the night.
     At Rehearsal No. 2, the octaves move into a section built on what d'Indy called a
nuageux or "nebulous" motive. Now the day begins to break, and the key is C minor. On Page 8, we hear the sounds of the awakening daytime birds. d'Indy creates their sounds with flutes and an oboe. French composers first heard nature sounds expressed this way in the section called Forest murmurs from Wagner's Siegfried.
     The day continues to make its appearance on Page 14, three bars before Rehearsal No. 7. Here the key changes to C Major and the theme representing the sun begins to take shape in a canon performed by a horn and trombone, a bassoon, the English horn, the bass clarinet, and the two clarinets. A motto based on the sun theme is then presented by two horns and the English horn as the music moves toward the full light of day that finally occurs on Page 19. The key changes to B and two trumpets doubled by the violas proclaim the full sun theme. We bask in the sun's rays with music provided by tremolos and arpeggios in the harps, woodwinds, and violins.
     The mysterious nuageux theme reappears briefly on Page 24, but in a battle with the sunlight, it is brought to silence, the sunlight reaching its great luminosity on Page 27, Rehearsal No. 12, with a bold statement of the sun theme by the string section accompanied by the birds of daylight.

 2nd Movement

     The day continues in the second movement Jour (Day), subtitled Après-midi sous les pins (Afternoon under the pines). A reverie of country folk takes place under the protection of tall trees with the sun's rays streaming through their branches. This movement is in E major and is in a ternary ABA form, like a classical minuet in some ways, but unlike one in others. d'Indy describes the "A" sections as a phrase lied. They are in 6/4 time, duple but employing some hemiola. I'll refer to these ABA sections as parts One, Two and Three. In the opening of the Part One, the theme is presented by the first violins. Here one feels the calm and the heat of the day. Part One itself is in ABA form, which I will call aba (in lower case). First the "a" section is presented and as it gracefully dies away, the "b" section in C major begins on Page 41, Rehearsal No. 17. d'Indy describes this as a popular dance rhythm heard in the distance that will soon come into prominence as a Scherzo in C, but for now it is still a distant echo. Meanwhile, while this rhythm continues, the birds of the night (flutes and oboes), disturbed during their diurnal sleep, mutter a few final desperate cries. The "phrase lied" commences again (the second "a" section) on Page 45, Rehearsal No. 19.
     At Rehearsal No. 20, we experience the  heat of the sun in a section that leads to Part Two, the Scherzo in C on Page 47, Rehearsal No. 21, built on the rhythm hinted at before. The scherzo is in ABA form, the trio (middle section) in Db Major beginning on Page 54, Rehearsal No. 26. Before the scherzo returns again on Page 60, we experience, via the timpani and low keys of the piano, a slight hint of a brewing storm, but the scherzo quickly returns with the sound of a tambourine accompanying. Part Three is a re-exposition of the "phrase lied" in its original key of E major beginning on Page 609 at Rehearsal No. 34. At the very end of the movement, as the music quietly fades in the late afternoon, we hear a few last iterations of the scherzo motive played by a clarinet, horn, and bassoon.

 3rd Movement

     The third movement is called Soir (Evening) and here, little by little, the sun sends its last rays through the treetops as the cold night returns. True to d'Indy's interest in using cyclic reoccurrence throughout an entire composition, this movement's music will return to the same place from whence it first came: the darkness of night that occurred at the beginning of the first movement. The third movement is in the same two keys as the first movement, but they are reversed: B major is first, followed by C minor. The form of this movement is the classic rondo (rondeau in French).
     The music begins with a B major refrain described by d'Indy as "the joyous song of the peasants." The transition to the first couplet (or episode) occurs at Rehearsal No. 40 on Page 84, and the first couplet, in G major, begins on Page 88. The theme for this couplet, one that will reappear later in the third couplet, is an exact transcription (except for the rhythm) of a Gregorian antiphon for the office of first vespers of the Feast of the Assumption. d'Indy, a devout Catholic, used the melody found in
l'Antiphonaire Bénédictin of 1897, a version that differs from Vatican editions. This was most likely the melody that he was most familiar with, and that he probably loved and enjoyed. Perhaps it evoked a memory from an Assumption Day in his own past,  and he associated it with the closing of the day. The theme is presented by woodwinds doubling strings. At the end of the exposition of this theme, on Page 90, the horns quietly remind us of the rondo refrain melody from the beginning of the movement with a choral-like four bar phrase.
     We hear the refrain again, back again in the key of B Major, starting on Page 92. A transition again begins in the key of D major at Rehearsal No. 45 on Page 96, then the beginning of the second couplet in A minor is found on Page 98. It reintroduces fragments of themes from the first movement as our diurnal journey now moves back into the mists of approaching darkness. We again hear the
nuageux theme, then a section of music based on the head motive from the Gregorian melody followed by falling glissandi, as night moves in. Finally, beginning at rehearsal No. 49 on Page 102, we again hear the sounds of the night birds, this time the clarinet and oboe are aided by the piano. At Rehearsal No. 50 on Page 105 there is a short transition based on the head motive of the Gregorian theme, and this leads to a full exposition of the Gregorian melody beginning on the bottom of Page 105.
     The refrain occurs again for the third time on Page 107, this time played softly and very slowly by the strings. The peasant's song has slowed and seems to come from a distance. It dies away, and then at the second system on Page 108, the coda in C minor begins, based on the same
nuageux chords that we heard at the beginning of the first movement.
     The day has now finished and we prepare for the next by returning again to the beginning of the work.

© 2006 by Don Robertson

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