Jacques Ibert – Pièce (Analysis)

The composition “pièce” written by Jaques Ibert in 1919takes about five minutes and is written for only a flute. It can be divided in five parts : Intro, Principal section, subsidairy section, Principal reprise and a Closing section.

The introduction of the piece lasts for 15 bars, and is written in a 2/4 time signature. It gives the listener a rough idea of what will happen with the melody in the subsidiary section, but also gives ahead some hints of the principal section; The sextuplets in bars three and four introduce a variation of the main theme, whilst the fast played part in bar 5 as well as the scales in bar 6 show some material from the subsidiary section. Even though the piece doesn’t have any given key signature, one can clearly see, that the main theme is meant to be in g-flat, due to the many given accidentals. I wasn’t able to tell in which key signature the introduction is written in, because it involves several accidentals which are sharps as well as flats. Nevertheless it was quite clear, with more and more accidentals getting involved (especially flats), that the melody was working towards the g-flat for the start of the principal section.

Even though it involves the main theme, the principal section is quite short compared to the subsidiary section. The main theme starts in bar 16, where Ibert changed the time signature to 6/8. It can be recognized by the following melody :

Flöte Hauptthema

This motive is played twice in the principal section, both times with a different ending, whereas the second ending is slightly longer, due to it going towardsan insinuation of a climax before the subsidiary section starts.

At the beginning of the second section the time signature changes again, to 9/8, but only for 7 bars. Those 7 bars include 4 bars of scales going up and down with semiquaver notes as well as a short two-bar-section which slightly resembles the main theme, followed by another semiquaver scale. If there are any given key signatures for the scales of this part then unfortunately I wasn’t able to figure them out.

The next part of the subsidiary section starts with the time signature 3/4, which is being swapped  5 times with a 2/4 time signature every time a new bar stars. This part of the section involves another “reminder” to the main theme, before the time signature changes a last time from 3/4 to 2/4, whilst the melody goes up a scale using only semiquaver-triplets:

Triolenlauf Soloflöte

Just looking at the notes, I personally wasn’t able to tell whether this scale can be named. After that a few scales of sextuplets, septuplets and nonuplets can be heard. And the very last bit of this rather wild part of the piece is made with one bar filled with an upwards going scale of appogiaturas. Starting on an e and followed by its minor third, its a chromatic scale ending on the e flat two octaves above:

flöte Appoggiaturalauf

Having reached a climax, by coming to the highest point of this scale, the music suddenly starts getting slower and calmer again, until it changes the time signature back to 6/8 and starts with the principal reprise.

This reprise starts with the main theme, as shown in the first example, but is played an octave higher. The way to the repetition of the main theme (which is then on the original octave again) also takes a bit longer this time. This is because Ibert used some aspects from the secondary section once again and also because the melody had to move downwards to start the theme on its original height.

The atmosphere of the piece expands once more when the melody goes over several triplets at another variety at the end of the last repetition of the theme. Then, as if the composer would have wanted to make a conclusion, the time signature changes once again to 2/4, which it was at he very beginning. Those four bars are generally quite calm except for one thriller on e flat, this is one out of two thrillers which can be heard during the whole piece. The first one can be found in the introduction on a flat. The time signature changes a last time to 3/4 , which lets the piece end onto two long held notes (one bar each) on d flat one octave apart.

In terms of dynamics, Ibert chose to stay on a calm (pp) volume at the intro as well as the ending part of the composition. The principal section and the principal reprise are both in an average volume (mf). Only the secondary section, which is the section that stands out in this way as well, changes its dynamics several times. Working towards a climax it becomes louder and louder (ff), only having a few calm moments, before the everything suddenly gets quieter again and the time signature changes (as already written) to 6/8, with the mf – dynamic again to announce the start of the principal reprise.



It often happens to me when I analyse pieces, that I find much more in the structure and background of it, that I originally thought there was. It took me a while to get into the structure of it, because it is written for a solo instrument, but I really enjoyed it in the end. I found especially interesting, that Ibert seemed to have put most of his effort into embellishing the subsidiary section of the piece, which is rather unusual. It was furthermore quite fascinating for me, that even though the short main theme has only been played four times throughout the composition, it was the only part I could still clearly remember after listening to it for the first time. All in all I would say, that Ibert seemed to have tried to get the most out of this particular instrument, which he managed quite well especially through the different scales as well as the sudden jumps in the melody going up and down.

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