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Nigel Keay - Souffle coupé for wind quintet (2015)

Souffle coupé for flute, oboe, clarinet in A, horn in F & bassoon.


1. Élégie (Lento). Duration; 3' 25".
2. La ville reprend sa vie (Allegro moderato). Duration 4' 06". Audio mp3.
3. Épilogue (Moderato). Duration 3' 28" Total duration ca. 11 minutes

Full Score - PDF 19 pages, 436Kb

Flute part - PDF - 5 pages   Oboe part - PDF - 5 pages   Clarinet in A part - PDF - 5 pages   Horn in F part - PDF - 5 pages   Bassoon part - PDF - 5 pages

Audio; MIDI simulation (Halion Sounds)

The composition of Souffle coupé began immediately following the events of 13 November 2015 in Paris, even though I’d had the idea of writing a wind quintet in mind for quite a few months. Concerning the construction of the music, five separate parts is a somewhat natural form in my music, having written quintet music for strings-only, then in the mixed wind and strings quintet Diversions of 2003, leading to the even more diverse timbres of the wind quintet as in Souffle coupé. Certainly the circumstances when beginning to compose the work resulted in the solemn ambiance of the opening elegiac movement, placing independent lines in dialogue with each other. These lines, while lyrical, are always preoccupied with the overall harmonic context of the group, perhaps to the extent of constraining each individual instrument from expressing their own voice too individually, through any overt virtuosity. In a sense, this aspect prevails through the entire work. 

While the work is in three separate and contrasting movements, recalling traditional classical form, each movement grows out of material presented in the preceding movement (or movements). The second movement, La ville reprend sa vie, includes textures of lighter density, reducing the dialogue down to two voices in several instances, while searching for a corresponding lighter ambiance, which is suggested towards the end of the movement. 

To conclude Souffle coupé, the third and final movement, Epilogue, is somewhat reflective in nature – expressive of the social reflection prompted by the traumatic events that struck the cities of Saint-Denis and Paris.

Upcoming performances;

Performance History;

Ensemble QuintitusSaturday 20th May 2017, 8.30pm (Night of Museums). Souffle coupé was performed by Ensemble Quintitus at the Musée des Avelines, 60 Rue Gounod, 92210 Saint-Cloud, Ile de France. (Works by Zemlinsky, Onslow, Dvorák, Keay & Saint-Saëns)

Souffle coupé was premiered on Saturday 11 March 2017, 7.30pm by Ensemble Quintitus at Columbia University's Reid Hall, 4 rue de Chevreuse, 75006 Paris. Programme also included works by Zemlinsky, Onslow, & Dvorák. Ensemble Quintitus; Chiawen Kiew (flute, piccolo), Franck Le Bail (oboe, cor anglais), Nicolas Brémaud (clarinet), Michel Crinon (horn) and Ronald Grun (bassoon).



For a full minute
the city holds its breath,
holds, for a single minute,
its quick, irreverent tongue.

Paris, this once, keeps still, silent,
grieving for its children
that will not move or speak again.


I lift my head and watch the wind
rafale the leaves, blanket the pallid sky.
A bell begins to toll from Notre Dame.
Black wings flap like flags over
roofs of livid slate; the ‘humane’,
‘reasonable’ houses along the Seine
incandesce in a flare of sun,
then darken. Somewhere out of sight
a plane rumbles; police cars siren nearer.


Tonight on café terraces that glow like shrines,
fresh glasses of wine will be raised again,
at the ritual trois coups a hush will grow
and the curtain rise at the Comédie Française . . .

Committed as ever to l’art de vivre,
to la joie de vivre, the City of Light resists.

Dunstan Ward, 16 November 2015