COMPOSERS: Honegger,Les Six,Milhaud
LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Six poésies de Jean Cocteau; Les machines agricoles; Les mariés de la Tour Eiffel
PERFORMER: Ensemble Erwartung/Bernard Desgraupes
CATALOGUE NO: 8.223788
The group of composers known as Les Six – Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger, Auric, Tailleferre and Durey – has achieved collective and, in some cases, individual fame. In truth their association, inspired by Jean Cocteau, was confined to a short period around 1920, and they soon went their separate ways. Indeed, Durey had already left by 1921, when the others collaborated on the ballet score Les Maries de la Tour Eiffel.
This recording features Marius Constant’s skilful small-ensemble adaptation, rather than the original full-orchestra version, and it differs further from its rivals by including Cocteau’s witty narrations. The performance works well, though the wound perspective lacks depth and atmosphere. The other items are ideally coupled, capturing Honegger and Milhaud wholly at one with the aesthetic of Les Six. Honegger’s miniature Cocteau settings, scored for flute and string quintet, are a delight.
They are beautifully sung by Florence Katz, whose performance of Milhaud’s notorious Les Machines Agricoles is equally satisfying. Of course, it is essential for the listener to study the words of these settings from a catalogue of agricultural machinery; but while texts and translations are provided, the badly planned booklet prints them on separate, unrelated pages. Terry Barfoot