Jean Françaix’s Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano: Music to “Give Pleasure”

Jean Françaix (1912-1997) began composing at the age of six. When he was ten, his first published work caught the attention of the legendary composition teacher, Nadia Boulanger. In a comment to the boy’s parents, Maurice Ravel said, “Among the child’s gifts I observe above all the most fruitful an artist can possess, that of curiosity: you must not stifle these precious gifts now or ever, or risk letting this young sensibility wither.”

From a child prodigy, Jean Françaix went on to leave his mark on twentieth century French music as a composer, master orchestrator, and virtuoso pianist. His style, influenced by Ravel, Poulenc, and Stravinsky, eschewed the prevailing atonality to embrace a witty neoclassicism. His goal was to avoid dogma and snobbery, and to simply give pleasure. His philosophy is outlined in the following commentary:

It’s difficult for a composer to talk about his own works. If he praises them, he is accused of boasting; if he disparages them, he is considered guilty of false modesty. If he dissects them into theme A, theme B, musicologists will applaud, but musicians will find him boring. If the work is of any value, it will need no explanation; if it is of no value, no esoteric commentary will render it any better . . . All I ask my listeners is to open their ears and be brave enough to decide whether they like my music or not. I don’t want any intermediary between me and my listeners trying to sway their judgment one way or the other. They should remember they are free human beings, not obedient automata. I want them to crush snobbery, fashion and envy with the power of common sense and to enjoy my music if it gives them pleasure; which of course I hope it does…

Composed in 1994 in response to a commission from the 24th Festival of the Double Reed Society, the Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano was one of Françaix’s last works. Set in four brief and playful movements, the piece demonstrates the composer’s penchant for woodwind writing. The first movement (Adagio – Allegro moderato) begins with a serene pastoral statement before launching into a spirited, occasionally clownish romp. A similar mood continues in the exuberant Scherzo which follows. The third movement (Andante) is a serene, dreamy, irregularly metered five-step waltz. The finale opens the door to a comic, free-spirited instrumental conversation.

This performance features Ensemble Wien-Berlin:

I. Adagio – Allegro moderato:

II. Scherzo. Risoluto:

III. Andante:

IV. Finale:


  • Françaix: Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano, Ensemble Wien-Berlin Amazon

Featured Image: the Pompidou Center in Paris, photograph by Adora Goodenough/Unsplash 

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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