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CD Review

Jean Françaix


  • Le roi nu
  • Les demoiselles de la nuit
Ulster Orchestra/Thierry Fischer
Hyperion CDA67489 62:49
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Any Françaix addition to the catalogue is always a cheerful occasion. Throughout his long life (he died in 1997 at the age of 85), he composed with one aim in mind; to paint the lighter side of life. This music is full of charm, wit and sparkle distinguished by a superb technical skill mixed with a strong dose of amiable humility.

Françaix wrote 9 ballets in all with 'Le roi nu' (the Naked King) being his fourth. Based on Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Emperor's New Clothes', it premièred in 1936 at the Paris Opera. It was staged by Serge Lifar and proved to be Françaix's greatest success until then. Notwithstanding Stravinsky's influence, the music is colourful, humorous and very often vivid. The ballet, with its unmistakable French flavour also delights in moments of mystery and magic.

Twelve years were to pass before Françaix wrote his next ballet, 'Les demoiselles de la nuit) (The Ladies of the Night). Whereas 'Le roi nu' is a burlesque full of 'joi de vivre', 'Les demoiselles' is on the whole a much moodier work, though at the end it is quite as witty. Described as a 'cat ballet' in one act, it was choreographed by Roland Petit and premièred at the Theatre Marigny on 21st May 1948. After this première, it was staged in London and New York with resounding success. The action is set amongst a decadent society of cats, whose activities beneath are the mirror of what humans are doing in the city above. An intriguing idea imaginatively set to music. The score is certainly more varied than 'Le roi nu' including episodes of pathos and romance. The ballet is also justly famous for its delicacy and stylishness.

This is Hyperion's fourth disc in the Françaix series and I sincerely hope there is more to come. If you want to spend an hour of fun in dreamland, then this disc is just the recipe that you might have been looking for.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech