Image pour flûte seule, Op. 38 is one of Eugène Bozza’s most well-known works in the repertoire for solo flute. Although there is little information about Bozza’s work and life, it is still the performer’s responsibility to approach the piece consciously. Bozza’s Image is frequently performed and recorded by virtuosic flute players, however, after learning the piece, I realized that many performances and recordings interpret the piece “away” from the score. These recordings then influence young performers who use them as a reference while learning the piece for the first time, thus continuing the problem. Flutists should only reference recordings to have an overarching idea of the music. Learning the piece and developing an interpretation based on recordings alone has become a downfall in the performance practice of this piece. This brought me to the idea that the performer should be more conscious in preparation of Image by closely following indications on the score, exploring other 20th century compositions, and analytically approaching the piece.
Twentieth century composer Eugène Bozza made significant contributions to music, especially to wind instruments. Beginning from the 1930s, Bozza published at least one new piece every year until his death in 1991. Eugène Bozza expanded his oeuvre with other compositions for orchestra, chamber music, opera, choral works, and vocal compositions, however is mostly known for composing quality works for a variety of wind instruments. These compositions of Bozza’s are frequently played and recorded today. For example, there are over 130 albums with recordings of Bozza’s works on the Naxos Music Library and hundreds of videos on YouTube. Even though he made great contributions to the repertoire, he has received less recognition compared to other twentieth century composers and very little has been written or published about his life. Despite this, the frequency of which his music is performed shows there is value in his work. Eugène Bozza was born in Nice, France, on April 4, 1905. He began violin lessons with his father at the age of five and beginning at the age of seventeen, he attended the Paris Conservatory three times, first studying violin, then conducting, and finally composition. He was a talented violin player, winning the Premier Prix in 1924. Bozza even had a career as a solo violinist until he decided to return to the Paris Conservatory to study conducting in 1930. In the following year, he won the Premier Prix for conducting and was appointed conductor of the Ballets Russes in Monte Carlo. In 1932, he started studying composition at the Paris Conservatory with Henri Büsser and received the Premier Prix in composition. In the same year, his composition La légende de Roukmani brought him the award of Prix de Rome. The winners of this award are chosen by the French government and sent to study at the Académie de France at the Villa Medici in Rome, Italy. He spent five years composing during this time at the Villa Medici, in Rome. In 1939, he returned to Paris in the new position of orchestra conductor at the Opéra Comique, where he remained until 1950. Later, he became the head of the National Conservatory of Music in Valenciennes in France up until 1975.
Image pour flûte seule, Op. 38 (1936-40):
It is not clear when Image was composed, some sources indicate it was completed in 1936, during his time in Villa Medici, in Italy, while other sources indicate it was completed in 1939 or 1940, when he relocated back to France. Regardless of location, the style of Image creates a mystical atmosphere and evokes imagery typical to French impressionist twentieth-century pieces. The score is annotated in detail, in terms of dynamics, tempo, breath marks, phrasing and expression. In “Compositions, Scores, Performances, Meanings” by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, he mentions that “Dead composers become saints, and their visions become sure as a result, we just need to commune with them with a pure heart, and the right sounds will emerge.” Bozza’s own indications on Image are the guide that helps performers to implement the composer’s intentions. Even though Bozza did not leave much autobiographical literature or program notes behind him, he was meticulous with his musical notation in Image.Image is an example of Bozza’s use of a unified motif throughout the piece, similar to his earlier compositions. The structure of Image intends to sound free and improvisatory, however uses a simple motif that develops throughout the piece, repeating in different registers and pitches, providing unity throughout the piece. Bozza’s use of extreme contrasts in dynamics, pitch, tempo and meter, pushes the technical ability of the fairly new, at the time, Boehm mechanism flutes. The work gives freedom to the player by using improvisatory and rubato passages, which helps the melodic lines to flow more naturally. However, he is also specific about rhythmic variety and the performer should enhance the difference between contrasting rhythms, even while having freedom within the overall phrase.
The most reliable source for Image is the notation since there are no program notes provided. The score contains the composer’s own annotations in almost every single line of the work. This direct appeal to feelings is characteristic of his scores and reminds us that notation allows performers to map where and how the inspiration passed through the composer. The performer’s job is to decode the intentions of the composer as accurately as possible through analysis and reflection upon the notation provided in the score.
First of all, it is important to decipher the composer’s score markings and show respect to those indications by observing, or translating into one’s own language. The first aspect that the performer should take into consideration is the title of the piece, Image: meaning “a mental picture or impression of something,” which gives a sense of freedom and allows the performer to apply their own stories. In Image, even though the title evokes flexibility and imagination, the composer is still meticulous with specific rhythmic notation, so that the performer doesn’t recreate the work. If the composer wanted the performer to be “freely interpretive,” there would be either less specific instructions or written indication that would refer to “play free throughout.” Bozza’s notation of Image is similar to his predecessor Claude Debussy in that both use very specific score markings despite their impressionist style. Musical notation will always remain an approximation at best, but the attentive performer will notice Debussy’s highly specific way of writing. Leading twentieth century composer Debussy was influential amongst other composers. His piece Syrinx (1913) was the first significant solo work composed for the modern Boehm flute, 150 years after C.P.E. Bach’s composition Sonata in A minor. The Invention of the new modern Boehm system flute allowed composers to achieve different use of colors and larger scale and dynamic range. Following this invention, composers also push the boundaries of this instrument by using new techniques such as flutter tongues, harmonics, and unpitched air noises. Debussy became a pioneer of composing for this new solo flute, and was followed by his contemporary Pierre-Octave Ferroud and later Eugène Bozza, eventually leading to many future generations of composers and flutists.
“Theobald Boehm (1794-1881) is undoubtedly one of the most famous names in the history of the flute, as a result of his revolutionary redevelopment of the instrument’s design, which had an enormous impact on not just the flute, but all other woodwind instruments..”
Observing other composers’s solo flute works is also essential to understand where Bozza received inspiration in terms of indications, structure, use of scales, and rhythms. Pieces such as Syrinx and Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, 1894) by Debussy, and Trois pièces pour flûte seule – Part III. Toan-Yan (1920-21) by Ferroud shares similarities with Bozza’s Image. One similarity is that all three pieces use titles which evoke some kind of imagery in the performer and listener. Another similarity is that all three pieces start with an improvisatory introduction followed by a more rhythmical section. Image shares the most common grounds with Syrinx. Both pieces are unconventional when compared to other twentieth century compositions, however still share traditional usage of ternary form. Additionally, both use the idea of one small motive being developed throughout the piece. Outlining these similarities is important for performers who may be familiar with Syrinx, and are preparing to perform Images for the first time. Even a seasoned performer would benefit in performance practice by understanding the similarities between these works of the same genre and compositional style. Debussy’s Syrinx starts with “très modéré” which later continues to more rhythmical section “Un peu mouvement” (Example 2).
There are contradictory opinions of whether or not Debussy wrote bar lines for Syrinx. Trevor Wye, who is an accomplished flute performer and pedagogue, claims that the idea of Debussy’s Syrinx without using bar lines is untrue. Further research is needed to emphatically make this claim, however one similarity is in Debussy’s orchestral piece Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. This piece was written nineteen years before Syrinx, and shows that he used this evocative improvisatory solo flute within the bar line, which also starts with the tempo indication “très modéré” (Example 3). The similarities could lead to the conclusion that bar lines are necessary to organize the solos more clearly, or on the contrary, that the bar lines were only necessary for the full orchestra and conductor to follow along with the soloist, while not needed for solo flute such as in Syrinx. Further research of original manuscripts or correspondences with Debussy would be needed to clarify this question.
Trois pièces pour flûte seule – III. Toan-Yan by Ferroud, starts with an improvisatory section indicated as “Lent, et comme en improvisant environ” (Slow, and as improvising about 42 bpm), which is followed by a more rhythmical section (Example 1).
In Image, similar ideas are present such as starting with a vague and improvisatory style, then transitioning into a more rhythmical section. Image starts with “Lent, avec le caractère d’une improvisation” (Slow, with an improvisatory character) which is followed by “Allegro ma non troppo” (Fast but not too much) just as in the other two pieces by Debussy and Ferroud (Example 4).
Referencing compositions by other French composers of his time shows that Bozza was likely influenced by their style and techniques. Influences of Debussy and Ferroud are even present in Bozza’s later compositions. In Interlude for solo recorder or for solo flute (1978), he uses direct quotations from Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Pierre-Octave Ferroud’s Trois pièces pour flûte seule. In the same piece, he also uses direct quotations from his earlier composition Image. After looking at these examples of other pieces, it can be seen that Bozza perhaps took the idea of meticulous notation and clear rhythmic structure from Debussy, and added more freedom to the performer by using improvisational techniques learned from Ferroud. In recent years, there have been many respected recordings of Bozza’s Image, however listening to these does not immediately provide an intellectually informed performance. This means listening alone does not provide the same information for the performer as does research and knowledge of the composer and the pieces’s historical context. The reason performers fall into the trap of being unprepared is perhaps that some of the major flute player’s recordings have become a reliable source for young players, who in turn are less worried about researching and bringing to life the composer’s intent. They may bring to life a famous flute player’s intent more than Eugene Bozza’s intent.
In order to bring to life the composer’s intentions, the player should avoid exclusively listening to recordings to learn Eugene Bozza’s Image. Recordings should be referenced only to have an overall idea of the piece but not as the sole reference in preparation to perform the work. Leech-Wilkinson, on recordings, mentions that they benefit from advancing styles and knowledge of how pieces have evolved over time, but may encourage a declining willingness to read scores. He also presents the problem of having less ability to “imagine sound” if only using existing recordings. This references the declining ability for performers to see notes and imagine how they should sound without first having to hear recordings.
One of the issues caused by recordings of Image is rhythmic accuracy. In the beginning of the piece, Bozza indicates “Lent, avec le caractère d’une improvisation” (Slow, with an improvisatory character), and clearly shows his rhythmic changes of 16th and 32nd notes (Example 5). However, in many recordings it is played the same rhythmic value. Another example is at the end of the first line, Bozza does not provide a rest but again in many recordings the flute players add an extra beat of eighth rest (Example 5).
In Image, Bozza uses the same rhythmic motif throughout the piece (Example 7). He uses slurs over all three notes in this up and down shaped motif. However, if this three note motif is descending, he uses tongue at the end. Again, most recordings perform all of these motives with the same slurred articulation, ignoring the slight but deliberate differences notated by the composer.
In conclusion, it is the performer’s responsibility to bring the composer’s markings in the score to life for the audience. This cannot be accomplished with integrity without first researching and taking into account every detail meticulously marked by the composer. Understanding the composers and pieces which influenced Bozza are also essential to this process of forming a valid interpretation. Referencing recordings alone is not enough for musicians of the highest quality. Only through careful analysis, and only referencing recordings for broad levels of understanding, will performers be able to present an interpretation of Image close to the original intentions of the composer.
Ashley Chan, “Flute Recital: Program notes,” Davidson Music Center, February, 2011.
Daniel Leech Wilkinson, “Compositions, Scores, Performances, Meanings,” MTO a Journal of the Society for Music Theory 18, no. 1, April 2012: 1-17. http://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.12.18.1/mto.12.18.1.leech-wilkinson.html.
John David Cross, “Mass Without Words: Eugene Bozza’s Messe solennelle de Sainte Cecile for Brass, Organ, Timpani and Harp,” PhD diss., California State University, Long Beach, 2011, 15.
Kelly Ann Kazik, “Selected Accompanied and Unaccompanied Flute Works of Rivier, Bozza, and Francaix” Doctoral Dissertation, University of Maryland, 2008.
Kuyper-Rushing, Lois. “Reassessing Eugène Bozza: Discoveries in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Valenciennes Archive,” Music Library Association 69, no. 4 (2013): 706-720. www.jstor.org/stable/43672641
Potter, Carolina. “Syrinx: Claude Debussy.” Philharmonia Orchestra, accessed December 6, 2019. https://www.philharmonia.co.uk/paris/essays/22/syrinx.
Westbrook, Peter. “Theobald Boehm – Romantic Composer Part I: The original works.” Flute Journal, November 6, 2014. http://flutejournal.com/theobald-boehm-romantic-composer-part-1-the-original-works/.