Film Music Review
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The Music Of Michel Legrand


The Music of Michel Legrand

Music composed, arranged, conducted and produced by Michel Legrand.

Disc One: 10 Tracks (Playing Time = 40:40)

Disc Two: 10 Tracks (Playing Time = 54:11)

Featuring Pierre Boussaguet, bass; Francois Laizeau, drums; Catherine Michel, harp; and the Moscow Virtuosi. Recorded at Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, October 26-28, 2010. Engineered by Maria Soboleva. Mixed at Studios Guillaume Tell, Paris. Mastered by Akira Ando, King Sekiguchidai Studio, Tokyo. Artwork and design by Stuart Ford.

Silva Screen Records/ Silva America 1364

Also available as a digital download.

Rating: ****


Michel Legrand will turn 80 next year but you would never know that based on the number of appearances he has made across the world. Legrand has done a number of jazz club appearances here in the states especially and a few orchestral ones as well.

This new Silva release finds him both at the piano and on the podium with the fine Moscow Virtuosi. The result is a mix of beautiful orchestral jazz and an occasional jazz trio (including Pierre Boussaguet, bass; and Francois Laizeau, drums) focusing on a lot of the composer’s 1970s film work and best-known songs.

Imagine a pops-like concert of Legrand’s music and this two-disc set would be its memento. All of the composer’s most famous melodies appear on this release (save the Bond tune, “Never Say Never Again”). Many of the selections appeared on an earlier Silva recording with Legrand and the Flemish Radio Orchestra. The arrangements here are simply gorgeous and feature prominent harp work by Catherine Michel. Simply gorgeous music making is on tap throughout. There are a few minor problems in the opening “I Will Wait For You” from UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG but not enough to distract from the music. There are plenty of other great moments that more than make up for it. The jazzy, semi-Russian romantic take on “The Windmills of Your Mind,” which opens disc two, is a bit of fun most likely devised for specific use with the ensemble. The pop-like 1970s jazz style that appears in the theme from BRIAN’S SONG is another great moment. Even a scat vocal performance of music from DINGO is included.

There are some great surprises for Legrand fans thrown into this compilation. Three of the selections are non-film work. The first of these is “Once Upon a Summertime” from 1955. It is cast in a wonderful orchestral piano style featuring another of those great Legrand melodies. From a dance album in the 1960s, “Di-Gue-Ding-Ding” is reminiscent of Mancini albums from that period and is simple goofy fun. Some may recall its use in 1998’s CLAY PIGEONS. Closing out the second disc is the “Family Fugue.” The piece is cast in that Jacques Loussier/Claude Bolling Baroque jazz mold and makes for a fitting conclusion.

The Baroque-jazz style is also on display in the “Concerto” from THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT. The selection from THE SCOUNDREL (1971) features a similar period style that leads into the suite from THE THREE MUSKETEERS. These two selections, coupled with the aforementioned fugue, create a rather unique set of similar sounding styles for comparison.

The music Legrand chose includes a few rarer concert versions of themes from LE MANS and THE HUNTER grouped in one part of the release. The song “Watch What Happens” from UMBRELLAS provides a wonderful close to Disc One to bookend the music in between the two selections from this film. A theme from the odd biopic GABLE AND LOMBARD (1976) appears here and it too is a gem of a tune. The theme from a TV series about a dolphin, OUM LE DAUPHIN, allows for a brief moment for Legrand to show off another light, comedic style.

Probably one of the most enjoyable sets in Silva’s catalog, this Legrand release is highly recommendable. The Moscow Virtuosi seem to be enjoying themselves and there are few ensemble issues.

The recording is fairly warm and well-balanced as well.

When music-making is this good, you really wish there was more, especially with the lower timings on these discs, but it is a fine reflection of what a concert with Legrand might sound like.


-- Steven A. Kennedy, 29 August 2011

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