Eugène Bozza, who was born in Nice in 1905 and died in Valenciennes in 1991, was a violinist, composer and conductor. He received his first violin lessons from his father, who came from Italy.

Eugène quickly passed the entrance examination for the Conservatoire de Paris and won a 1st prize for violin in 1924. After completing his violin studies, he entered the composition class and also received a first prize there in 1931; in 1934, he finally won the coveted Prix de Rome with the one-act lyrical fantasy La Légende de Roukmāni.

He had long since conducted more than he played the violin.

From 1939 to 1948 he was first conductor of the Opéra-Comique and finally went to Valenciennes, where he directed the École nationale de musique from 1951 to 1975.

 

It is a rather dry, unexciting curriculum vitae, and it hardly gives us any idea of the great, brilliant and gladly performed music that the man behind the curriculum vitae has composed for us.

Bozza’s work is characterised by a high art of instrumentation, and this is not the only thing that places the composer among the most important of his generation in France.

In fact, his large oeuvre encompasses almost all genres, but the chamber music portion is truly remarkable. We wind players, in particular, owe him numerous and beautiful repertoire works.

Because of the prominent place that chamber music occupies in his oeuvre, Bozza’s larger compositions have remained relatively unknown.

 

He wrote over 40 works for or with flute.

I particularly enjoy playing his music for solo flute. Image op.38 dates from 1939 and is very different in its lovely melodic line from the many etudes written between 1960 and 1975 to help the flutist learn modern music.

Aria, Agrestide and Soir dans les montagnes are works for flute and piano – very different in difficulty.

 

For me, however, the absolute highlight is the flute quartet Jour d’été à la montagne.

The first movement, Pastorale, immediately takes us into the typical setting of shepherds’ and shepherds’ sounds. The theme wanders through all four voices and develops almost hypnotic abilities, before the use of birdcalls in the last quarter of the movement attracts attention again.

The 2nd movement Aux bords du torrent (The mountain stream) then allows the four musicians to reach the limits of tempo. In shimmering 16th note triplets, the stream rushes down into the valley, not without accompanying the odd bird along the way.

The following third movement, beautifully entitled Le chant des fôrets (Song of the Forests), is just that: a single great song in honour of nature. From the lowest possible note on our instrument far into the third octave, the flutes revel in euphony before the 4th and last movement Ronde provides a cheerful conclusion in joyful rhythms and sounds.

Probably every professional flute quartet has already played this work and every amateur will immediately pick up the flute again so that they too can soon produce these beautiful, radiant sounds. 😊

 

 

(A. W.)