A member of Les Six,
Auric inevitably collaborated with Jean
Cocteau, the group’s godfather and mentor.
He participated in collective works
such as Les mariés de la
Tour Eiffel. He also wrote a
number of songs on poems by Cocteau.
There are several scores for Cocteau-directed
films (Le Sang d’un poète
– 1930, L’Aigle à deux
têtes – 1947, Les Parents
terribles – 1948, Orphée
– 1949 and, of course, the celebrated
La Belle et la Bête). One
of his major ballet scores, Phèdre
(1950) is to a libretto by Cocteau;
now available again in CD format in
Les rarissimes de Georges Tzipine
– EMI 7243 5 85204 2 2. Auric is
now best remembered as a prolific composer
of film scores, probably more so than
as a composer of concert music. He obviously
had a real flair for incidental music,
and was able to find the right tone
whatever the subject, be it light-hearted
comedy such as The Titfield Thunderbolt,
wartime drama (Heaven Knows, Mr Allison),
psychological thriller (The Innocents)
or fairy tale (La Belle et la Bête).
His collaboration with Cocteau proved
most fruitful and successful, because
composer and director were, so to say,
on the same wave-length. This is evident
in his substantial score for La Belle
et la Bête that beautifully
evokes the fairy-tale nature of the
film as well as its darker aspects.
The score displays what some may describe
as eclecticism, in that it alternates
Neo-classical or folk-like episodes
and harmonically more astringent ones,
the latter sometimes verging on atonality.
The whole, however, never sounds eclectic.
The music fits the film’s episodes in
a quite remarkable way. As this recording,
now re-issued at Naxos bargain price,
makes clear, La Belle et la Bête
is a substantial score, although the
whole of it was not used in the original
soundtrack. Adriano’s well-informed
notes go into some considerable detail
about this point; but it is a fate often
encountered in the film industry, and
a rather frustrating one. Luckily enough,
carefully prepared recordings such as
the one under review help put things
into the right perspective. Moreover
they allow us to hear the music in a
much better way than from the ageing
soundtrack which often obscures the
real quality of the original scoring.
This is particularly welcome in this
case, for Auric’s subtle and refined
scoring may at last be fully appreciated.
La Belle et la Bête
is scored for large orchestral forces
and includes episodes with wordless
chorus (hints of Ravel’s Daphnis
et Chloé here), though
the composer rarely use them as such.
He allows some more lightly-scored episodes,
particularly when accompanying the chorus.
Some other episodes, however, use the
whole orchestral range with telling
and effective results. Of course, the
score mainly consists of fairly short
cues (there are some exceptions though).
However the whole amounts to a most
satisfying musical experience.
and well-informed notes are an asset,
as far as the production of this recording
goes, although – surprisingly enough
– they contain one mistake: Adriano
fails to mention Honegger as a member
of Les Six! This is the more surprising
given that Adriano recorded a good deal
of Honegger’s film scores, of which
that for Les Misérables
is also now available as a Naxos Film
Music Classics (8.557486)[reviews].
This should not deter anyone from enjoying
his reading of the scores by Auric and
This most desirable
release is recommended not only to film
buffs (who bought it when it was first
released), but also to anyone with some
interest in 20th Century
French music. Auric was a fine composer,
whose music is too little-known and
still awaits deserved re-assessment.
Not to be missed, especially at Naxos’s
customer-friendly bargain price.