Francaix live a long life, passing away only eight years ago. He
composed in nearly every genre with great facility and a quality that
the notes to this disc accurately call “an amiable unpretentiousness.”
That French wit permeates most of his music and Le roi nu is a perfect
illustration since the ballet is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The
Emperor’s New Clothes.” One of nine ballets composed by Francaix, the
music flows at a mostly continuous pace, with vivid orchestration and
showing an influence of Stravinsky here and there. When the king
finally dons his imaginary robes, the lush instrumentation falls back
to just a few solo instruments – naked orchestration, so to speak.
The Ladies of the Night was another witty but somewhat more moody
ballet effort, this one subtitled “cat-ballet in one act.” The scenario
concerns a decadent underground society of cats who mirror human life
in the city above. One of them falls in love with a human who is lost
in the underground and becomes a human to be with him. But she can’t
control her wanting to eat birds etc. Sections of romantic music
alternate with music of great pathos, and the strings do their best to
imitate the meows with glissandi. Francaix peppers his already witty
score with brief quotations from other composers, which will
necessitate a good musical memory in addition to wit to identify.
Cat-and-music-lovers looking for an antidote to “Cats” would enjoy this
delightful Francaix pâtisserie. This oh-so-French music is played to
the hilt by an oh-so-Irish orchestra in a hall in Belfast. Great sonics
– as usual with Hyperion.