No 1: Prière Sainte Vierge Marie, ayez pitié des gens
No 2: Polka Sirocco, joli vent chaud
No 3: Attelage Deux maisons de travers approchent
It was during a stay Jean Cocteau, my brother Pierre and I had that summer at Ahusquy, a small hamlet in the Basque country near the Spanish border, that these short pieces were conceived. The first couple were based on two popular motives after hearing the song of a young shepherd, to which Cocteau added the words of 'Prière' and 'Polka'; the third piece on one of the poems he brought back from our trip.
In the last, the meaning might seem obscure if it wasn't for the title 'Attelage'.
A scene of working oxen in their traditional harness, covered by a sort of rug, crowned by their yokes, their saliva flowing, foaming, from their mouths to the ground.
The first two pieces are tonal and sober. The accompaniment to the third, more elaborate, atonal, unwinds the wreath of two melodic parts in counterpoint above a constant and weighty bass evoking the slow and heavy tread of the two animals.
(Louis Durey, from his Catalogue Commenté, translation by Isabelle Battioni)
Apart from the piano score there is a version with accompaniment for oboe, clarinet, cor anglais and bassoon (or string quartet).
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2002