Flute (also piccolo), oboe, Bb clarinet (also in Eb), bassoon, horn, trumpet in C, trombone, double bass
Varèse, a great adventurer in the field of sound, a visionary, a precursor and a pioneer of French contemporary music as we know it today, was the first composer who was able to express the poetics of a city-dwelling and mechanized world, the first to proclaim the anguish of the modern world. He left only 14 scores, each one more astonishing than the other, including Octandre.
It is a surprisingly innovative major work, among his very first (1923), the only one that does not include any percussion. Written for a very atypical instrumental formation (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, double bass), it is also distinguished from the others by a structure in three short movements, in which Varèse affirms, through incantatory melodies, rhythmic hammering of “sacred” appearance, the interpenetration of timbres… the path he will explore from now on. Despite the great success it still enjoys today, this formation, which is both very rich in color and very small in terms of the number of musicians, has never become a “standard” for other composers.
Titles of the parts
I] Rather Slow
II] Very lively and nervous
III] Grave – Animated and jubilant