Milhaud: Saudades do Brasil; La muse ménagère; L’album de Madame Bovary

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COMPOSERS: Milhaud
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Saudades do Brasil; La muse ménagère; L’album de Madame Bovary
PERFORMER: Madeleine Milhaud (narrator); Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553443 DDD
Though centred around the ‘household muse’, as Darius Milhaud called his 1944 piano suite, this collection contains not a trace of kitchen-sink drama. Even the set of pieces from his 1933 Jean Renoir film score, L’album de Madame Bovary, neglects the more savoury elements of Flaubert’s masterpiece in favour of tender reflections on the heroine’s inner life.

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The source of such transparent domestic bliss can be seen on the front and back covers of the booklet notes: Madeleine Milhaud, senior composer’s widow, depicted with her wifely arms resting on the composer’s shoulders, and her quasi-maternal arms resting on the shoulders of pianist Alexandre Tharaud beneath a portrait of the immortal Darius. She reads her own choice of excerpts from the novel to complement the suite, her Armagnac English rather more remarkable than the music it accompanies.

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For, however lovely, her interjections are also welcome pauses in a sequence of music that might otherwise blur into endless reams of pearly chromatics. It’s a kind of fragrance you love or ignore. Love it, and the more exotic Saudades do Brasil, historic precursors of the classical Latin style, make this disc a collectable item. Nicholas Williams