Françaix carried off the first prize for piano at the Paris Conservatoire in 1930 and was himself, at the age of twenty-two, the soloist in the premiere of his Concertino for piano and orchestra
, which was given in a Lamoureux Concert in Paris on 15 December 1934. This pithy and highly polished work, one of his earliest successes and still one of his best-known compositions, seems an archetypal example of the elegant, witty and tender style that was to serve him well throughout a long composing career. The busy moto perpetuo manner of the first movement is propelled by chattering piano figuration, but the underlying melodic shape of the opening (modelled, it has been claimed, on Czerny’s Study Op 299 No 8, in C major) is varied resourcefully by scalic and broken-chord figures in a brief development that leads to a short climax. Here, as throughout the works on this disc, brevity is the soul of wit – the forms are miniaturized, the music reduced to its simplest essentials. When the piano resumes its figurations it is in the foreign key of B minor, but the music side-slips into the home key before it fades out.
The slow movement is simplicity itself, both in melody and harmony, a poised and serene page of music that repeats itself da capo only to make way for the scherzo, spun out of a perky Gounod-like motif, a little counterpoint, a trumpet tune and twanging cellos. A tiny trio, suggesting a Musette, gives the merest glimpse of Watteauesque pastoral. The return of the minuet leads without a break into the finale. This is a breezy Rondeau in 5/8 time that establishes a distinct kinship to the first movement, with similarly bustling figuration and thematic quips bandied about between the soloist (who here shows the strongest penchant for bravura) and the orchestra. A louche and jazzy trumpet eventually takes up the main tune and the Concertino patters off in high good humour, vanishing on an upward glissando.
from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2004