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Francaix: Scuola Di Ballo / Symphony in G, etc. Import

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, May 1, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Symphonie en sol majeur - Sérénade - Ouverture anacréontique - Pavane pour un Génie vivant - Scuola di Ballo / The Ulster Orchestra, dir. Thierry Fischer

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony No. 3 in G major (1953): Allegretto
  2. Symphony No. 3 in G major (1953): Andante
  3. Symphony No. 3 in G major (1953): Menuet et Trio
  4. Symphony No. 3 in G major (1953): Final
  5. Scuola di Ballo (after Boccherini), ballet in one act: Variation de Rosina
  6. Scuola di Ballo (after Boccherini), ballet in one act: Pas de deux de Josephine et du Comte Anselme
  7. Scuola di Ballo (after Boccherini), ballet in one act: Danse de Félicita et de Fabrino
  8. Scuola di Ballo (after Boccherini), ballet in one act: L'Actrice
  9. Scuola di Ballo (after Boccherini), ballet in one act: Pastorale
  10. Scuola di Ballo (after Boccherini), ballet in one act: Entrée du Notaire
  11. Scuola di Ballo (after Boccherini), ballet in one act: Finale


Product Details

  • Orchestra: Ulster Orchestra
  • Conductor: Thierry Fischer
  • Composer: Jean Francaix
  • Audio CD (May 1, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: HYPERION
  • ASIN: B000063TSL
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,580 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 25, 2004
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Composer Ned Rorem has compared the French, whom he prefers, and who in his view are 'profoundly superficial,' with the Germans, whom he sees as 'superficially profound.' His description of the French applies with startling appositeness to the music of Jean Franç'aix. Fran'çaix himself recasts Sacha Guitry's famous maxim, 'Ce qui n'est pas clair n'est pas fran'çais' ('That which is not clear is not French') as 'Ce n'est pas clair n'est pas de Fran'çaix' ('That which is not clear is not by Franç'aix.') Influenced by Ravel and Les Six, Fran'çaix (1912-1997) unfailingly wrote in a limpid style informed by more than a touch of the refined esthetic found so consistently in Ravel's music. Yet, like Ravel's, his music has a hidden sensuality that, when discovered, is seductive and addicting, at least to me.

Most of Franç'aix's music has a light, often droll character. He was one of the first to use what has become, with many modern composers, neoclassic eclecticism; he borrows liberally from styles of the past. His 'Sé'r'énade', written in 1934 and included here, anticipates the similar style Stravinsky used in his 'Dumbarton Oaks Concerto' and 'Jeu de cartes.' Entirely winning, this little 9-minute suite uses the varying meters and tongue-in-cheek sassiness made so familiar by Stravinsky.

The Symphony in G Major, the third of Fran'çaix's symphonies (none of them is numbered, however) is most easily described as a marriage of Haydn and Stravinsky (Harold Shapero's 'Symphony for Classical Orchestra' comes to mind). I is jaunty, II pensive, III has wheeze-box alternating chords reminiscent of those in 'Petrouchka' and includes a three-legged tango. IV, a saucy Allegro, is the most Haydnesque but goes delightfully far afield harmonically.
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I am familiar with the music of Jean Francaix (1912 - 1997), so this disc was one that I had on my list to buy at once. The works are from various parts of his career. Of the works played here, I was familiar with the Serenade (from 1934), which I heard many years ago on an old LP. I was pleased to see it included here. Francaix's music reminds me in a aural sense of the painting of Henri Matisse: they are like a good armchair to a tired businessman. His music is light and charming but also well written, filled with delicate rhythms and subtle shadings.
The symphony played here is actually Francaix's third and last (written in memory of Joseph Haydn in 1953); he did not number his symphonies. The symphony has a classical format in the four short movements but the music does not, like Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, attempt to recreate an 18th century sound. The Scuola di Ballet is based on the music of Boccherini and was choreographed by Leonide Massine. It has been a highly successful work and was first recorded in the 1930s. The work is neo-classical, much like Stravinsky's Pulcinella.
The Overture anacreontique is from 1978 and in this composition M. Francaix imagines a world without war. The Pavane pour un genie vivant dates from 1987 and is homage to Ravel to mark the 50th anniversary of his death. It is scored for a small orchestra and is evocative of Ravel's music.
The music is beautifully played and recorded. I have always found Francaix's music to be a delight. His music was popular in German where it was taken to represent the French character. Perhaps this best describes his works: charming, witty and sometimes profound.
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Some music makes its points so quietly and subtly that your first and maybe even third impression of it is "so what?" A case in point: the Symphony of Jean Francaix. Early mental notes that I made about it run something like "Reminds me of a melodically challenged Ravel." "If this is a tribute to Haydn, Haydn should be insulted." And indeed, as a symphony paying homage to Classical style and content, it initially seems lacking compared to that most famous of classical symphonies, No. 1 by Prokofiev. But give the Symphony time, and its special qualities emerge, not least the amazing bursts of Dionysiac energy lurking beneath the serene Apollonian surface of the first and last movements. At points, these movements erupt, bass drum and percussion briefly pounding away, and then subside into their predominantly quiet, divertimento-like demeanor. It is as if the composer suddenly wants to remind us that this is, after all, the raw, noisy, complicated 20th century, and welcome back to it.

As to the melodies or lack thereof--true, Francaix is not primarily a melodist. You will search these works in vain for the gracious airs that, say, Poulenc lavishes on his best-known work. But then Francaix is paying tribute to the Classical era and its reliance on short motives that can act as building blocks rather than ear-catchers. So, all things considered, this interesting Symphony is a worthy tribute to Haydn.

The attractive Serenade is closer in spirit to the cheekiness and irreverence of a Poulenc, Milhaud, or Ibert, at least in his Divertissement. It is sheer fun to listen too and yet with a dreamy, languid second movement that is highly distinctive, more than just fun.
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