d’Indy’s Symphony on a French Mountain Air

Notes by TŌN violinist Esther Goldy Roestan

The Composer
Vincent D’Indy was a French composer and teacher. He was born on March 27, 1851 and died on December 2, 1931 in Paris. He grew up in an aristocratic, royalist, and Catholic home. His primary instrument was the piano, and he absolutely knows how to write for pianists. In the 1870s he visited Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt, who were not only legendary composers but also pianists. During his lifetime, he loved opera, especially all the big romantic operas such as Wagner’s Ring Cycle, or Bizet’s Carmen Fantasy. His deep connection to and love for orchestral composition and music in general allowed him to have a lot of freedom and range.

The Music
Symphony sur un Chant Montagnard Francais, also known as Symphony on a French Mountain Air, is a very unique piece. Even though the staging looks like it’s written for solo piano and orchestra, it’s not; both the pianist and the orchestra play equally important roles. This is a three-movement work. It begins with the wind section solos, and a bed of string sounds which is absolutely perfect for such a scenic piece. The second movement is more mellow; it focuses more on the flamboyant piano and string sounds. And finally the third movement is the most joyous, folksy, and open part of the piece. D’Indy went all out with this movement, we can clearly hear the melody in each of the sections—the winds, piano, strings, and brass—and it takes us to the open mountains during good weather.