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Cat. No. CHAN 10290 X Price: £7 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10290 - Philharmonia / Simon - French Ballet Music of the 1920s
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Audio Sample

Available From: 07 February 2005
During the 1920s many French composers reacted against the Wagnerian influences of the late nineteenth century, the impressionism of Debussy, and the dominating atmosphere of the circle round César Franck, and turned instead to the everyday world – the circus, the music hall, the fairground and jazz – for inspiration. The two French ballet scores presented here combine many of these elements and being collaborative efforts, provide a unique cross-section of the work of a dozen composers – some well-known, others barely mentioned in textbooks on the period.

The ‘Jeanne’ of L’Éventail de Jeanne was a Parisian hostel and patroness of the arts who also ran a children’s ballet school. In the spring of 1927 she capriciously presented ten of her composer friends with leaves from her fan, asking each of them to write a little dance for her pupils. The first performance took place in 1927. The children were dressed in fairytale costumes and the décor was enlivened by a set designed with mirrors. Such was its success that two years later it was performed at the Paris Opera with the little Tamara Toumanova, who was later to become a famous international ballet star.

Jean Cocteau, the Parisian aesthete, asked the composers which made up the Les six Français to write the music for a new stage work for the Swedish Ballet. Cocteau’s project was to be a surrealist fantasy which the author described as a spectacle – ‘a sort of secret marriage between Ancient-Greek Tragedy and a Christmas Pantomime’. The story of Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel takes place on the newly built Eiffel Tower of the 1890s and satirises a petit-bourgeois wedding party celebrating the bride and groom’s nuptials with a banquet and wedding photograph. However, the words ‘Watch the Birdie!’ are the signal for some strange apparitions to materialise through the lens of the camera!

…these pieces are full of imagination and fun. Geoffrey Simon and the Philharmonia Orchestra give a very good account of themselves and the Chandos recording is little short of spectacular.
The Penguin Complete Guide to Compact Discs

I listened to these two on-act pastiche ballets on a broiling hot, humid June night when it was 84 degrees in my living room and said, ‘who needs air conditioning! This is better than AC!’… What gorgeous playing and sound in All saints’ Church Tooting (a suburb of London).
American Record Guide

The zany exuberance of ‘Les mariés’ concocted by five of Les Six in the 1920s, is infectiously captured in this colourful reissued, as is ‘L’eventail’, a contemporaneous ten-composer collaboration.
BBC Music Magazine

All this music, Gallic in its unsentimental clarity, demands the cleanest and crispest playing, and this the Philharmonia Orchestra admirably supplies.

The performances under Geoffrey Simon are excellent. They deserve nothing but praise.
New York Times

The sessions evidently secured the right zippy response from the Philharmonia while also providing interestingly colourful sound quality.
Which Compact Disc


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