Suite en duo for flute and harp
1. Préambule : Modéré – 2. Modéré – 3. Assez lent – 4. Danse à onze temps : très animé
Composed from 1 to 16 February1927 on board the battleship La Provence in Toulon, the Suite en duo was first performed by its dedicatees (the harpist Pierre Jamet and the flautist René Le Roy) the 25 February 1928 at the Société nationale de musique. It was the result of a voyage that Jean Cras had made to Guinea and to Senegal a few months previously. He had brought back from it some balafons; percussion instruments of which the wooden bars are struck by mallets (as with a xylophone), whereas the gourds placed under the bars act as resonators. Seduced by their timbre, he also took inspiration from their modality and their melodic formulas, which he had notably heard during a concert in Kindia, in Guinea. Furthermore, he pointed out that the principal theme came from a balafon melody. The motives are often based on three or four sounds (and not on the seven notes of the western scale). That all the movements of the Suite are in A flat is not a coincidence, because the African instruments which Cras had listened to were tuned to this note. However, the listener will probably not guess the geographical roots of the score with only one hearing. On the one hand because the pentatonic colours and the motives of a few of the sounds also exist in other traditions (including Breton music). On the other hand, because the composer ruled out postcard exoticism. As for the Danse à onze temps, it asserts his taste for irregular bars, Vocalise-étude, valse à onze temps of 1928 slipping in fact, into the same metric mould.