The Music of Michel Legrand

August 19, 2011

Any orchestra name that has Moscow in it usually means classical, Russian music, and very often it has a full heavy sound which is a trademark of some of their music. This is not the case with the new Silva SILCD 1364 2 CD offering set for physical and digital release on 9/13/11. While this is another Silva compilation all of the material is new with fresh arrangements having been recorded in October 2010. All of the tracks are composed, arranged, conducted, and produced by Legrand. I am so often guilty of contempt prior to investigation even before the first play I had already made up my mind it was going to be syrupy strings, predictable piano, alto sax, and gypsy violin. In other words schmaltz all the way. Wrong, wrong, wrong! This doesn’t sound like any compilation you might hear from any previous Silva compilation release. If I hadn’t been told otherwise I would have never guessed that this ensemble Moscow Virtuosi could have sounded like a Hollywood orchestra! His arrangements are fresh and unique with many of the songs given a completely new sound. Featured are not an alto sax but a harp and excellent jazz piano backed by a good string, percussion, and brass ensemble.

Some of the highlights include a Le Mans arrangement that features a strong influence from a powerful brass section that definitely makes its presence felt with big band at its best. String and woodwinds offer the melody and the rest are the horns of the Moscow Virtuosi that have a feel for the music. The Thomas Crown Affair is not the romantic piano reading to put a tear in your eye but a complex classical beginning that smoothly changes gear into a jazz style with a nice series of runs nicely backed by the strings. Di-Gue-Ding-Ding is an arrangement in the Mancini style that is a raucous fun adventure featuring the brass and percussion nicely complementing the offbeat melody from the strings. Dingo starts off as a lush French vocal that suddenly turns itself into a jazz song worthy of the finer scat recordings of American jazz. It nicely combines soft and brash and I enjoyed it even though I had no ideas about the words. Family Fugue starts off as a typical run of the mill fugue that you’re likely to hear at a Bach concert pleasant but certainly not material groundbreaking in any way. Suddenly without warning we’re introduced to a jazz piano that proceeds to offer a series of complex runs with nice backing from drums and bass. The change is so abrupt it immediately gets the attention of your ears. A very nice track. Les Parapluies de Cherbourg gives the harp front and center as first it offers the melody and then becomes the background with a series of complex runs that definitely make this arrangement different. The Scoundrel takes us back in time and offers an 18th century melody played pretty close to the vest. A rather long offering is  The Three Musketeers suite with its classic tense opening filled with brass openings and ominous timpani and then it quickly shifts into a comedic fun piece with strings and brass both offering melodies. Half way through the lush strings offer the romantic melody. It offers a bit of action before the brass loudly end the excellent track. Wuthering Heights is one of his best themes that represent the love and tragedy of the classic story. The strings powerfully offer the theme with the brass complementing them. Gable and Lombard offer its unique theme on the oboe with the sweet strings entering the track with the sweeping Hollywood sound giving a lump in the throat.

I found the 90+ minutes over with very quickly and wanted to listen to it again. While at this point I’ve only heard an average sounding digital download I’m looking forward to hearing an uncompressed CD which I’m confident will produce a fuller sound with less shrill in the upper end and a smoother bass. Highly recommended.

 

1… Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (I Will Wait for You) (4:00)

2… Les Demoislelles de Rochefort (Concerto) (2:11)

3… Once Upon A Summertime (La Valse des Lilas) (3:40)

4… Summer of ’42 (The Summer Knows) (4:11)

5… Di-Gue-Ding-Ding (3:09)

6… Brian’s Song (2:50)

7… Dingo (vocal) (4:13)

8… Wuthering Heights (I Was Born in Love With You) (5:29)

9… Gable and Lombard (4:56)

10. Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (Watch What Happens) (5:44)

11. The Thomas Crown Affair (Windmills of Your Mind) (4:33)

12. Le Mans (3:22)

CDI total time is 48:30

 

13. The Hunter (5:06)

14. Les Uns Et Les Autres-Un Parfum De Fin Du Monde (4:20)

15. The Happy Ending (What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life) (6:12)

16. Yentl- The Way He Makes Me Feel/What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life (6:12)

17. Oum Le Dauphin (La Dauphin Oum) (2:58)

18. The Scoundrel (Maries De L’An2) (2:28)

19. The Three Musketeers (8:08)

20. Family Fugue (8:55)

CD2 total time is 45:30 Total Time both CD’s is 94:00

SILCD 1364

Michel Legrand conducts the Moscow Virtuosi

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