The music of Jean Françaix drew on the neo-Classic sounds he heard as he came of age, and he kept composing until the last decades of the twentieth century, altering his style but little in the face of successive avant-gardes that sought to have their way with the musical world. Often he seemed to simplify his music, but it was a deceptive simplicity, with jocular or lyrical tonal melodies underlaid with subtle rhythms and finished off with expert workmanship. His chamber music, instantly appealing for anybody, has always held a place on concert programs. L'horloge de Flore (1959), for oboe and a small orchestra, offers a good example of his style at its most accessible. The floral clock intended to be evoked in the work is not just the conventional arrangement of flowers in a clock-face pattern, but a rarer type of different kinds of flowers that open at specific times of day. The music seems more suggestive of the dayparts themselves than of flowers (some of it certainly sounds like Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), but this may be because the booklet gives the names of the flowers only in French; the music might seem more flower-like if listeners knew what they were dealing with. The third movement, "Dix heures. Cierge à grande fleures," offers a good example of Françaix's limpid style, with its duple oboe melody raising a subtle tension with the sarabande-like rhythm in the orchestra. The two chamber works that follow, one a quartet for English horn and strings and the other a trio for oboe, bassoon, and piano, are somewhat denser harmonically but still make themselves crystal clear to the listener. It is hard to tell when they were written from the scattered and confused booklet notes, apparently a patchwork job by several contributors. The final string quartet was an early work, rather slack in parts but with Françaix's characteristic style already visible. This all-German performance, featuring Stuttgart Radio Symphony oboist Lajos Lencses, has all the lightness and transparency one could wish for.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|L' Horloge de Flore, for oboe & orchestra|
|Quartet for english horn, violin, viola & cello|
|Trio for oboe, basson and piano|
|String Quartet in G major|