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Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997)
L’Horloge de Flore (for oboe and orchestra) 1 (1959) [15:50]
Quartet for Cor Anglais, Violin, Viola and Cello 2 [14:20]
Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano 3 [17:08]
String Quartet in G 4 (1934) [12:29]
Lajos Lencsés (oboe 1, 3 and cor anglais 2)
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR/Uri Segal 1
Parisii Quartett 2,4
Françaix-Trio 3
rec. Karlsruhe SWR studios, May 1983 1, 21 October 1999 2, 17 February 2000 3, Stuttgart SWR Kammermusik Studio 3 July 1998 4 DDD
CPO 999 779-2 [60:19]

The recording dates may suggest a compilation of material previously released at different times but this programme has been well put together. The Flower Clock is a suite for oboe and orchestra in seven sections starting sleepily at three o’clock in the morning and passing through the day to nine at night. Francaix derived his inspiration for the work from both literature and science. It is a captivating piece and Lajos Lencsés (principal oboist of the Stuttgart orchestra) does it full justice in a highly coloured reading which, to my surprise, seems markedly preferable to both John de Lancie (the Philadelphia Orchestra’s oboist for whom the work was written – available on back order from ArchivMusic) and John Anderson (on Nimbus, currently seems to be deleted). Above all, time passes a little more quickly with Lencsés and he never lets you forget this music is French. From early in the digital era he is very well recorded and there is excellent support from Uri Segal and the Stuttgart Orchestra.

The Cor Anglais Quartet (the booklet persistently gives “English Horn”!) is a work in similar and generally light-hearted vein. There are five movements with the second and fourth at slower tempi. Lencsés switches to the Cor Anglais and seems equally at home but he is more closely recorded here. Thus there is some key noise but not enough to spoil the party.

The trio for oboe, bassoon and piano is the most substantial work here and a real find. In places it is about as profound as Francaix gets in my experience (not very). There are four movements with a slow introduction to the first and scherzo placed second. The slow movement has as melting a tune for the bassoon as you are likely to hear and the finale’s jocularity delights the ear. In this work the recording is excellent with a balance between instruments which is just right.

The string quartet is a slight, conventional and early work that I found less interesting than its predecessors. The Parisii Quartet blend together well and have to be on their mettle in the pizzicato laden scherzo.

My recent experience of CPO’s documentation has not been altogether positive so it is good to report that this aspect of the disc is well done with quite substantial notes on each of the works.

Francaix’s music is, as ever, undemanding and attractive. The Flower Clock is essential listening for lovers of the oboe and this disc contains the best performance I have yet heard. The companion works are something of a mixed bag but the Trio is certainly not to be missed.

Patrick C Waller


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