Francaix: Le roi nu; Les demoiselles de la nuit

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COMPOSERS: Francaix
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Francaix
WORKS: Le roi nu; Les demoiselles de la nuit
PERFORMER: Ulster Orchestra, Thierry Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67489
Hyperion’s splendid championship of this underrated composer now

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reaches the third CD of his orchestral

music. Françaix was only 23 when he

wrote Le roi nu, a 26-minute ballet

based on Hans Christian Andersen’s

tale The Emperor’s New Clothes (see

article, p32). Unsurprisingly, the score

fizzes with youthful high spirits – the

frantic skittering of strings, brass and

woodwind on the King’s initial entry

is one example among many. More

surprising, possibly, that it should

be so sharply distinctive – yes, there

are plenty of Stravinskyisms in the

instrumentation (the premiere was

1936 in Paris), but the playful elegance

and gay, insouciant approach to

melody are inimitably Gallic in style.

Les demoiselles de la nuit, another

ballet from 12 years later, is about

cats, one of whom, lovelorn, becomes

a human. The colourings are more

nocturnal, the characterisation at

times more precisely focused, though

the overall impression isn’t quite so

punchily convincing as in Le roi.

Conductor Thierry Fischer seems

totally attuned to Françaix’s idiom,

and the engineers have captured the

excellent acoustics of Belfast’s Ulster

Hall to colourful effect. The Ulster

Orchestra plays with wit, point and

vitality: it can rarely if ever have

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sounded better on record. Terry Blain