Silva Screen Records, Ltd. (SILCD 1185)
Release Date: 2005
Conducted by Michel Legrand
Flemish Radio Orchestra
|1.||I Will Wait For You||5:07|
|2.||You Must Believe In Spring/Concerto De Maxine/ La Chanson Des Jumelles||4:27|
|3.||The Summer Of 42||3:56|
|4.||Never Say Never Again||3:33|
|5.||How Do You Keep The Music Playing||6:00|
|6.||The Thomas Crown Affair||3:53|
|7.||What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?||5:59|
|8.||The Three Musketeers||8:04|
|12.||Yentl - Medley||13:58|
|13.||The Go-Between - Variations 1-2-3-4-5-7||10:24|
|Total Album Time:||77:49|
|by Tina Huang
on December 20th, 2005
Songwriter, composer, conductor, arranger, singer... as all of the above and more, Michel Legrand is one of the foremost modern musical artists today. While his works during the period of French New Wave cinema were undeniably outstanding, great acclaim wasn't first garnered by his film scoring prowess. A fortuitous venture into the jazz world, the release of the hit album "I Love Paris", and subsequent work with French 'chanson' Maurice Chevalier quickly launched him into the international spotlight. Although his name isn't widely recognized by many due to a lack of large commercial success, one only needs to listen to know that his music has stood the test of time.
With thirteen tracks ranging from obscure selections to the most celebrated, this Silva Screen Essential for Legrand features an hour and seventeen minutes worth of the composer's film works. (The added bonus that often comes with albums from this label is the conductor's direction of his own music - and this time, with the Flemish Radio Orchestra.) Aficionados looking for original or facsimiles of studio recorded performances won't find them here, however, that alone shouldn't deter picky listeners - if anything, it's an opportunity to enjoy the swanky side of his style. The sonorous, big band brass, percussion, and prominent instrumental riffs in this compilation all mark the break from traditional score performances. Instead of adhering to abbreviated cues of cinema, Legrand fleshes out sentiment and infuses his deep love of jazz in the bulk of the rearranged works. And unlike their filmic counterparts, the energy of these revamped tracks make them suitable for casual listening experiences rather than emotive, scene-reminiscent stimuli.
The opening piece, and one of the few not given Legrand's jazz treatment, is from Jacque Demy's beloved Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg); those familiar with the film will recall the heart-wrenching separation of "I Will Wait for You". This arrangement may lack the immediate, heart-wrenching poignancy of Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo's dubbed vocal duet, but the melody alone is enough to inspire the desperate, impassioned vibe - albeit a less intense one - of the train scene. A track from another Demy/Legrand collaboration is "You Must Believe in Spring" from Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort). Legrand transforms the tender piece into a phenomenon that vacillates between lounge jazz and cascading big band; not entirely consistent in energy, the piano solos by Legrand serve as flavorful garnishes while the more focused band and instrumental solos make the piece an ideal accompaniment for an end credit roll.
The bittersweet sensation that is The Summer of '42 is underscored by an intermittent, lazy sax and acts as a natural segue to the title song of the unofficial Bond flick, Never Say Never Again. Primarily jazz, the aberrant Bond score is unlike any heard in the 007 genre, but fares slightly better in instrumental form sans Lani Hall vocals. One wonders if "Une Chanson d'Amour" (the only Bond song ever sung in French) would have yielded more interesting results... In the little known Dingo, a subdued, sultry trumpet solo weaves in-between the symphonic portions, and calls out like illicit invitations in a hot, city night. The Best Friends's theme "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" is given a carefree sax to express the wax and waning of love. Legrand's arrangement substitutes the gentleness of the theme for nonchalant stylings of a lounge piece, and (the only downside) relies on the flaring of background instrumentals to induce a blanket state of "grand sweeping emotion".
"Windmills of Your Mind", the renowned theme from The Thomas Crown Affair, is somewhat of a disappointment. While it seems odd without any number of famous vocalists, the juxtaposed jazz piano solos and full orchestral swells make the listening experience somewhat confusing. The contrast in style performance is negligible when it's jazz and big band, but the blasé extravagance of the piano (which really should be portraying "subtle mystique") offers over-the-top embellishment and doesn't merge with the serious symphonic phrases. Happy Ending's "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" becomes a limp-wristed string and wind jaunt more than a substantial work until the last thirty to forty seconds. And the memorable theme of the television film, Brian's Song, is very Pop Orchestra with the flashy, grandiose climax; fun to hear, maybe, but it's ultimately stripped of any tenderness and buried in empty instrumental glitz.
Among the other purely symphonic works, The Three Musketeers is an ebullient, vaguely jerky suite that piques the most when it renders the romantic passages. Featuring lush, misty strings, ominous horns, and ghostly winds, the near forgotten Wuthering Heights is presented as a timeless, dreamscape suite - certainly brooding, somewhat comely - with a fitting end. Much like the Thomas Crown theme, the near fourteen-minute Yentl medley seems odd without Barbara Streisand's vocals. Unlike Streisand's voice, the prominent harp blends more than dominates, so listeners are able to take in the scenery of the orchestral accompaniments. "Variations 1-2-3-4-5-7" from The Go-Between is perhaps the most interesting track as it is a hard to find score. Backed by subtle strings and charming winds, the allusive harpsichord interacts with a vibrant harp in intriguing, Bach-esque question-and-answer phrases.
While Legrand's passion for jazz is prominent in this album, the stylistic flourishes don't always convey the essence of his music. If that irritates more than pleases, the composer's piano solo compilation, Michel Legrand by Michel Legrand (from Decca), provides less diluted interpretations of his seminal works.
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