[Poems of the shores], is an exceptional work within Vincent d’Indy’s compositional career, due to the special contextual inspiration which became a catalyst for the creation of a new, engaging and highly pictorial descriptive piece of music in four movements. Poème des rivages was written at the time d’Indy remarried: on 26th October 1920 he married a former student 36 years his junior, Caroline Jansan. This work can be read as a musical allegory to their honeymoon and new start together on the Mediterranean coast. Having begun the work in 1919, he completed the work in 1921. A review of the premiere in 1922, performed by the Concerts Colonne, noted that: ‘Si le musician a laissé cette fois les sommets un peu âpres et le langage un peu abstrait de sa période d’avant-guerre, il n’avait pas à craindre de déroger, et ce qu’il nous donne n’a pas un moindre prix’ [If the musician has left little rough peaks this time and a somewhat abstract language of his pre-war period, he did not fear a departure, and what he gives us has no lesser value] (Lindenlaub, 1922, 3). It seems, from this review, that this new work was anticipated and recognized as a departure in his style.
This little known work reveals a composer sensitive to musical imagery, produced through a texturally adventurous orchestral score, which integrates many of d’Indy’s compositional characteristics. Notably, the main thematic material is developed across all four movements. The piece uses contrasts of tempo, time signature and rhythmic motives to depict the many perspectives of the sea, but it is by no means another La Mer (Claude Debussy, 1905). Rather this seascape is a combination of scenic images and with a seeming reflection of the atmosphere of the Mediterranean coast where d’Indy and his new bride moved too. Much timbral and textural contrasts are created using contrasts in register, a large orchestra, including some new instruments, instrumental doubling and divisions and imitation between parts (some of which is novel for d’Indy at this time, notably the inclusion of four saxophones). The orchestra is large: d’Indy calls for triple woodwind, with the addition of an alto, two tenor and baritone saxophone, along with three trumpets and trombones, with the addition of a piccolo trumpet and contrabass trombone (noting that this could be replaced by a tuba). The strings are joined by two harps, celeste, piano, xylophone, cymbals and timpani.
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