Hyperion Records

Les malheurs de Sophie
composer
1935

Recordings
'Françaix: Ballet Music' (CDA67384)
Françaix: Ballet Music
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67384 
Details
Tableau 1 No 1: Allegro vivo
Tableau 1 No 2: Dotted crotched = 52
Tableau 1 No 3: Allegro
Tableau 2 No 1: Andante tranquillo
Tableau 2 No 2: Vivo assai
Tableau 3 No 1: Allegretto
Tableau 3 No 2: Pas de deux, entre Sophie et Paul
Tableau 3 No 3: Vivo
Tableau 3 No 4: Istesso tempo
Tableau 3 No 5: Subito vivo

Les malheurs de Sophie
EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The ballet Les malheurs de Sophie (‘The Misfortunes of Sophie’) is loosely based on the book of the same title, published in 1859 and very well known in French children’s literature, by Sophie, Comtesse de Ségur (1799–1874). A prolific author of children’s books, the Countess was born Sophie Rostopchin, and spent her childhood in Russia: Les malheurs de Sophie is a thinly disguised autobiography of her early life, depicting the misadventures of three-year-old Sophie and her five-year-old cousin, Paul. Though she lives an idyllic existence with loving parents in a grand château, the errant Sophie is very far from a model child, entirely different from her well-behaved friends Camille and Madeleine. She takes all sorts of notions into her head (such as over-eating at afternoon tea; general laziness; cutting up and cooking her mother’s pet fish; getting covered in whitewash; breaking her wax doll; staging a funeral for it and burying it; cutting off her eyebrows to improve her appearance, etc.). So she gets into all sorts of scrapes, from which Paul is frequently required to rescue her, though nothing escapes the eagle eye of her mother, who continually makes an example of the little girl to try to teach her better ways – which Sophie finds very unjust.

Françaix’s ballet treatment, to a scenario prepared from the original book by the Russian exile George Flévitsky, was composed in 1935. This was the composer’s third ballet (it was preceded by Scuola di Ballo and Beach, both from 1933) and here at last he found a subject that was ideal for his special brand of genial and even childlike invention. The action is divided into three tableaux, each comprising a sequence of short dances, highly tuneful, beautifully scored and largely carefree in mood. The general air of levity is offset by the tenderness of Sophie’s feelings for Paul, expressed in the third tableau by a Pas de deux. Late in life, Françaix arranged a suite of seven pieces from Les malheurs de Sophie for wind ensemble, which has become something of a repertoire piece among wind-players, but the original ballet score, of ten movements, is very rarely heard.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2004

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