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'Françaix: L'heure du berger, Divertissement, Clarinet Quintet & À huit' (CDA67036)
Françaix: L'heure du berger, Divertissement, Clarinet Quintet & À huit
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67036 
Movement 1: Vivace
Movement 2: Lento
Movement 3: Vivo assai
Movement 4: Allegro

The Divertissement was written at the time of the first performance of the oratorio L’Apocalypse selon St Jean, which took place in Paris in June 1942, and shortly after the composition of the Cantate en l’honneur de Sully (the tercentenary of whose death was marked in 1941). This was a troubled time for France, during the Nazi occupation, and, as if to rid himself of the daily privations, Françaix composed this delightful Divertissement. Some time later, he made a version for bassoon and string orchestra, yet—for reasons which remain unclear—the work was not first performed until 1968. It falls into four short movements, the first being a kind of moto perpetuo in which the basson bubbles along almost continuously over an entrancing string texture before a sudden ‘joke’ ending leaves us with a smile.

The second movement is a very simple structure as befits its relatively brief span. The music forms an idyllic study, as if idly contemplating a rural scene in high summer, and is based upon one idea that leads to several related fragments of themes. The reverie is banished in the jaunty scherzo movement, rhythmically irregular and full of tricky writing for the bassoon (as well as for the strings!). It is the bassoon, however, which seems to be the ‘odd one out’ until at last it joins the strings—almost!—for the ebullient brief coda. In the finale, after a peremptory opening gesture from the strings, the bassoon takes control of the music and gradually restores its authority, until the final quip—which takes everyone by surprise.

from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 1998

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Details for CDA67036 track 5
Recording date
23 December 1997
Recording venue
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Arthur Johnson
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
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