Jean Francaix – Quintet For Wind Ensemble – French National Wind Ensemble – Paris Radio – 1956 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
French rarities this weekend, by way of the ORTF broadcast recordings of the 1950s. This one features the French National Orchestra Wind Ensemble: Jules Goetgheluck, Oboe. Renè Plessier, Bassoon. Bernard Dufresne, Flute. Maurice Cliquenois, Clarinet and Louis Courtinet, Horn in a performance of the Wind Quintet by Jean Francaix in this radio broadcast performance, circa 1956.
Françaix’s natural gifts were encouraged from an early age by his family. His father, Director of the Conservatoire of Le Mans, was a musicologist, composer, and pianist, and his mother was a teacher of singing. Jean Françaix studied at the Conservatoire of Le Mans and then at the Paris Conservatory, and was only six when he took up composing with a style heavily influenced by Ravel. Françaix’s first publication, in 1922, caught the attention of a composer working for the publishing house who steered the gifted boy toward a gifted teacher, Nadia Boulanger (who, after her sister’s death in 1918, devoted her life to conducting, playing the organ and teaching). Boulanger encouraged Françaix’s career, considering the young composer to be one of the best, if not the best, of her students. Noted pianist and pedagogue Isidor Philipp also taught him. Françaix himself often played his own works, to public acclaim; notably in the premiere of his Concertino for Piano and Orchestra at the festival of Baden-Baden in 1932.
By 1932 Françaix had his Huit Bagatelles played at the Vienna Festival by the Kolisch Quartet and himself at the piano, while in Paris his Concertino for piano and orchestra was heard in 1933. Françaix’s compositions continued to be played during the 1930s in Paris. A String Trio (1933), a Fantaisie for cello and orchestra, Three duos for two sopranos, a Sonatine for violin and piano, a Quintet and a Serenade for small orchestra (1934). 1935 saw the premiere of his Quadruple Concerto for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Orchestra, and 1936 of a piano concerto.
Françaix’s music was also used for ballets: Le Roi nu, Les Malheurs de Sophie (both for Paris) and Jeu Sentimental (for Brussels).
Françaix was an accomplished pianist from an early age, earning a First Prize in Piano at the Paris Conservatory, and toured throughout Europe and the U.S. He performed notably in a duo with the French cellist Maurice Gendron, and also performed the Poulenc Two Piano Concerto with Francis Poulenc for several engagements when Jacques Février was not available. Françaix even premiered his concerto for two pianos with his daughter, pianist Claude Françaix, in 1964.
Jean Françaix’s primary occupation was his extraordinarily active compositional career. He remained prolific throughout his life; even in 1981 Françaix described himself as “constantly composing”, barely finishing one piece before beginning another, and continued thus until his death in 1997. Françaix was named an Officier de la Légion d’honneur in 1991.
If you aren’t familiar, this might be a good introduction, or at least set you in the right direction.
Either way, it’s Sunday night, so relax.