Program Notes

Au nom du silence

“Au nom du silence” (In the Name of Silence) emerges in a dissonant tremolo that rises and gives way to a theme based on the word “Silence”. This is accompanied by a soft drone which eventually grows stronger, and the theme is repeated in a distant and hesitant pizzicato. The music then softly fades away.

Das Birnli will nit fallen

This piece is based on a tale by the Grimm Brothers. The text is incremental, starting with the Master who wants the Pear to fall from the tree, and gradually adding new characters. The orchestration follows the pattern of the tale, since each character is represented by an instrument (or a group of instruments) that starts playing only when the character first appears.

The original tale is in a German-based Swiss dialect. The French and English translations are by the composer, and are entitled “La poire ne veut pas tomber” and “The Pear Refused to Fall”.

Ensemble sur un chemin désolé

Ensemble sur un chemin désolé illustrates two people walking together on a desolate path. Each in turn leads the other through a dark and desolate landscape. Various articulations and effects represent what is heard, seen and felt along this desolate path.

Mélodies sur des poèmes lyriques

Five art-songs based on lyrical poems by the composer’s mother-in-law, Francesca Cerdan. They display a wide range of emotions, ranging for sadness to joy, from a compelling dream of adventure to her love for her family. The set was arranged for viola and piano (see Romantica below).

  1. Romantica
  2. Laissez-moi mes rêves:
    A soft cantilena is accompanied by harmonies reminiscent of Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies. Several arrangements of this song have been written:
    • For voice, instrumental ensemble and tape, with a more colorful accompaniment, including a flute, a bass clarinet and a recording of a nightingale, which can be heard singing at the beginning of the piece before giving way to the (human) singer.
    • For SATB choir and string quartet (also with piano or a cappella).
    • For voice and flute on poetry by Charles Péguy; a full description in French is in a dedicated page.
  3. Forge ton destin
  4. Ah ! La jolie moisson 
  5. Rêve impérieux
    This poem is about a compelling dream, a strong desire to see the African savanna and to swing from tree to tree in the jungle. An obsessive melody is repeated and varied, accompanied by the insistent rhythm of the Sub-Saharan bell patterns played by the piano.

Las bodas de Helena

“Las bodas de Helena” was originally composed as part of “Les noces de Chounette“, a set of three pieces for piano based on notes representing the marriage of the composer to his wife Hélène. The piece was later arranged for trio, adding a new, more expressive, central section.  At times, the pianist seems to be distracted, and instead of playing the tango he plays the music that was performed at his own wedding: you might recognize some misquoted Bach, Beethoven, Grieg, Mendelssohn and Wagner. An arrangement for piano quintet of the original, shorter version was performed in The Netherlands in December 2013. Arrangements of the extended version were written for various groups of music students and were performed in France in 2013 and 2014. A recording of the piano version was published on YouTube in November 2014. The version for trio was formally premiered in Salamanca, Spain in April 2015.

Piano Sonata

The Sonata for piano has four movements. The first movement (F major) is an Andante in sonata form with the usual harmonic organization, and includes 5 sections: introduction, exposition, development, recapitulation and coda. The coda is much darker than the rest of the movement. The second movement is Vivace (F major), a gay tune accompanied by 9th cords and chromatic scales. The third movement is an Adagio (F minor), beginning with a choral-like presentation of a theme which is then developed in a short fugue. The choral returns, and the movement ends with a lyrical coda. The fourth movement is an atonal Andante, a canon to the major third based on a 12-tone series. It is quite dissonant and anguished, the last section including very loud clusters in the bass – but an appeasing F minor chord ends the sonata.


Romantica for viola and piano is an instrumental arrangement of Mélodies sur des poèmes lyriques. Arrangements of the entire set are available for violin and piano, cello and piano, flute and guitar, solo guitar and piano quintet.

A subset (including Forge ton destin, Romantica and Rêve impérieux) was arranged for piano solo and for flute and piano under the name Sonata Romantica.

Laissez-moi mes rêves was arranged for flute and harp as well as for piano solo under the name Promenade sur l’Orge in Vagabondages.


The composition of Saint-Pétersbourg was started while visiting the city of Saint Petersburg in Russia. Original material mingles with misquoted traditional themes, in a sometimes complex counterpoint that attempts to represent the contrasts of lively and modern people living in the old city of the tsars. Each of the sections refers to a specific moment of the journey: a boat trip on the river Neva, through canals and under bridges; a dinner after seeing Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, where memories of the ballet mingle with the popular tunes heard in the restaurant; a visit of the Hermitage Museum where both classical and modern art are displayed; and the suite ends with a burlesque fantasy on a traditional song : “I Have Travelled Around the Whole Universe”, heard on a very busy and animated street.

Souvenir de bal

Souvenir de bal begins as a minimalist composition with repeated notes accompanying fragments of a melody – the vague memory of a waltz heard during a ball. The memory grows stronger, and the melody is fully remembered, with its swift and dizzying accompaniment.

Tonawanda Creek at Sunset

A meditative traditional Native American song mingles with the shimmering reflections of the golden light of the sun as it sets over Tonawanda Creek. The birds in the forest join the song, which ends as the last rays of the sun disappear under the horizon and night falls.

Traurige Fröhlichkeit

Traurige Fröhlichkeit (Sad Happiness) owes its name to the alternation of major and minor modes, often encountered in Schubert’s music.

Trois fleuves

Trois fleuves (Three Rivers) is a set of three pieces, each inspired by a large European river.

La Seine (The Seine) is inspired by the guinguettes, popular drinking and dancing establishments located in the suburbs of Paris, mostly on the edges of the Seine and the Marne, and by the valse-musette, which is often danced in these guinguettes. After a short introduction, fragments of a melody are heard, the vague memory of a waltz. The memory grows stronger, the melody is fully remembered, and the playing gets swifter and swifter, more and more dizzying.

La Néva (Neva River) is based on themes that were written while visiting the city of Saint Petersburg in Russia, and represents a boat trip on the river Neva. After an introduction, a first melody is heard, together with the rumbling of the boat’s engine and the noises made by the water. The middle section has two themes in counterpoint attempting to represent the contrasts of lively and modern people living in the historical city of the tsars.

Le Danube (The Dabube) takes us to Hungary. It begins in the style of a Hungarian dance, based on an original theme and with some rhythmic irregularities. After a middle section where each instrument plays a variation of a more nostalgic melody, the dance returns, and the piece ends with a brilliant coda.

Trois fleuves was premiered on 14 April 2016 by Trio Contrastes in Salamanca, Spain.

Valse toupie

Valse toupie (Spinning Top Waltz) is a short tonal waltz. The main theme is based on the composers name (SAUTE(R) yielding E♭ACE), and it is presented with several variations and different orchestrations. The introduction is a harmonized scale, which separates the different variations of the theme and finally concludes the piece.