WORKS: String Trio; Wind Quintet No. 1; Wind Quintet No. 2; Cor Anglais Quartet
PERFORMER: Marwood Ensemble, Haffner Wind Ensemble of London
CATALOGUE NO: 14382 DDD
Jean Françaix (born 1912) studied with the great Nadia Boulanger, and his style has remained loyal to the one he inherited from the neo-classical Stravinsky and Les Six, in particular Francis Poulenc, during his formative years. The music here spans more than fifty years, but the listener would be hard put to discern any fundamental difference in approach between the early String Trio (1933) and the late Wind Quintet No. 2 (1987).
Françaix has abundant Gallic wit and charm, and the fluency of his writing is extraordinary. It is in the wonderfully tender slow movements that the strings are heard to best advantage. In this regard Caroline Marwood is given admirable support in the charming Cor Anglais Quartet (1970), the ideal balances paying close attention to dynamics.
The wind pieces are surely easier to bring off than those for strings; with contrasted instruments it is simpler to bring a sense of personality to the momentum pervading the quicker movements. Certainly that is the impression these recordings convey, though Françaix’s remarkable sympathy for chamber music is never in doubt. Terry Barfoot