Françaix: L'horloge De Flore, Etc / Lencsés, Et Al

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FRANÇAIX L’horlage de flore. 1,4 Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano. 2 English Horn Quartet. 1,3 String Quartet 3 Lajos Lencsés (ob, Eh); 1 Françaix Trio; 2 Parisii Qt; 3 Uri Segal, cond; 4 Stuttgart RSO 4 cpo 999 779 (60:19)

The main reason to get this album is L’horlage de flore . It’s a seven-movement suite based on an eminently 18th-century concept by the famous Swedish naturalist Linnaeus, mixing scientific inquiry and fancy: that a clock could easily be built to tell the hours of day and night through the blossoming of different flowers. Thus, Françaix set the day jessamine ( galant de jour ) first, as it opens at 3 a.m., the cupid’s dart ( cupidone bleue ) at 5 a.m., etc. Not everything is as abstruse, at least to us non-Gauls; night-flowering jasmine, moonflower, and the geranium all figure into Françaix’s master plan. It’s a graceful work that brings out more inherent lyricism than is usually the case with this composer, sometimes dismissed for his easygoing, loquacious humor.

This is only the third recording of the work that I can recall. The earliest featured oboist John de Lancie, who commissioned the work in 1959, with André Previn and the LSO (now on Boston 1045). It remains an excellent performance, in good analog sound. The second, with Pamela Pecha, Paul Freeman, and the Czech NSO (Kleos Classics 5104), can be quickly dismissed for its slack conducting and enervated orchestral playing, but this new version is as good in its own way as the original. Lencsés makes no effort to reproduce de Lancie’s wonderfully round tone, but offers a more pungent sound. Segal and his Stuttgart musicians similarly focus on Françaix’s harmonic bite.

The three remaining works on the album do reinforce the old stereotypes of the composer, with their droll but repetitious humor in faster movements, and light melancholy in slow ones. The best of the lot is the Trio, where Françaix’s desire to provide each of the three instruments with good material results in rather more genuine interplay than either of the quartets. It is also one of very few important works I’ve heard that allows the bassoon to function lyrically as well as humorously—in other words, to take on the role often assigned in orchestral works to the clarinet. The performance is a distinguished one, with the Françaix Trio coming by its name naturally: the pianist, Claude Françaix, is the composer’s son.

All in all, an attractive release, especially worth the purchase for L’horlage de flore.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal

Product Description:

  • Release Date: November 21, 2006

  • Catalog Number: 999779-2

  • UPC: 761203977925

  • Label: CPO

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Jean Françaix

  • Conductor: Uri Segal

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Jean Françaix Trio, Parisii String Quartet, Parisii String Quartet members, Pforzheim Southwest German Chamber Orchestra

  • Performer: Claude Françaix, György Lakatos, Lajos Lencsés