Quintet for harp, flute, violin, viola and cello

Composer: Jean Cras (b. 1879 - d. 1932)
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Composer: Jean Cras (b. 1879 - d. 1932)

Performance date: 05/07/2017

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: -

Duration: 00:23:00

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation Category:Small Mixed Ensemble

Artists: Ghislaine McMullin - [cello]
Lydia Abell - [viola]
Alex Petcu - [percussion]
Andreja Malir - [harp]
Adam Walker - [flute]

music of Jean Cras reflects a life-long passion for the sea. Born in
Brest, he showed exceptional musical talent as a child, but at
seventeen entered the navy. Unlike Roussel, who abandoned his naval
career in favour of his musical one, Cras managed to successfully
combine both, spending his last years back in his native city as rear
admiral of the Port of Brest. Debussy, a superb tone-painter of the
colours of the sea, was a great influence on his writing, as was his
friendship with Henri Duparc. The Quintet for harp, flute, violin,
viola and cello was written in 1928, on board the
Cras described it as
and lively…constantly progressing in a movement of continuous
. Always
representing the sea, the harp has a particularly important role in
the piece, providing the impetus for the constantly changing motion
of this impressionist picture.

the four movements, three are marked
The opening
sets a
lyrical flute line over rippling harp, with the lush texture provided
by the strings. As in Debussy’s exquisite Trio, the viola gives an
especially dark hue. The jaunty second theme is the first of many
dance-like episodes throughout the work. Again the harp provides the
rhythmic impetus, before settling back into a rocking motion, with
the cello rolling gently to the arpeggio movement of the harp,
beneath a still flute melody. The harp controls the build up of
momentum, with short wave-like gestures from the strings before they
return to the opening mood, with the flute, as if a bird, soaring
apart above the strings.

opens with chirpy, swirling figures – unsettled by ominous darker
colours – alternating calm moments, underscored with rippling harp
movement, with energetic changes in tempo. Cras combines viola and
harp very effectively to accompany unison strings and flute. It is
the way he uses different combinations of instruments playing in
unison that gives so many shades and textures to the piece. Also the
harp is exploited to full effect, to provide variety in the movement
of the sea. A gentle ending sets the scene for the calm strings and
flute opening of the
– a peaceful
seascape with the harp entry providing the effect of glistening
sunlight on the water.

pizzicato strings and the tumbling ascending and descending scales of
the final
Très animé
give a playful feeling to the movement, which prevails throughout,
though the flute is given lyrical moments reminiscent of the opening
movement. Answering phrases between flute and viola drive forward
and, out of a sudden still moment, come the scale passages, passed
around between the instruments, and again the momentum is built up
into the jaunty dance-rhythm – interwoven with fleeting scales. A
sturdy ending, with two long pauses from flute and strings, allows
the harp to give a final flourish to this quintet, which is an ideal
soundscape to the beautiful sea views enjoyed at the West Cork
Chamber Music Festival in Bantry Bay.