String Sextet in B flat Major, Op.92
Vincent d' Indy's String Sextet indubitably sounds like the work of a young man, but at the time it was composed, he was seventy six years old. D'Indy's style underwent a considerable change in the years following his retirement and move from Paris to the south of France. Here, he composed a series of works which are straight forward, youthful in spirit and generally bright and gay in mood.
Vincent D’Indy (1851-1931) was born of aristocratic stock. His musical talent was recognized by his grandmother who raised him and saw that he received piano lessons from famous teachers. Despite this, he was sent to law school in Paris. Instead, D’Indy, who was intent on becoming a composer, joined a Parisian orchestra as a timpanist to learn music “from the ground up.” Both Massenet and Bizet were impressed by his early compositions and encouraged him to show his work to César Franck. Franck did not share their enthusiasm and was reputed to have told D’Indy, “You have ideas but you cannot do anything.” Apparently those ideas were enough, however, to convince Franck to show D’Indy how to do things, as he took the latter on as a pupil. Though D’Indy was to assimilate and be influenced by many different sources, Franck and his music left the most telling mark on him. D’Indy’s reputation, during his own lifetime was considerable, having founded, in 1900, what was to become the most important music school in France after the Paris Conservatory—The Schola Cantorum.
The Sextet is in the form of a suite. The opening movement, Entrée en Sonate, begins with a bright, formal introduction. The main part of the movement is based on three different melodies which are closely related in mood and thematic material. The second movement, Divertissement, is a brilliant scherzo. It begins energetically, full of forward motion, but without warning is interrupted by a striking interlude, made spooky by the use of harmonics and ponticello. The third movement, Thème, Variations et Finale, begins with the statement of a slow, somewhat diffident melody. Several ingenious and finely contrasting variations follow.
Here is an important addition to the Sextet repertoire, a bright and attractive modern French work, which should win friends among both professionals and amateurs who make its acquaintance.