In 1947 Françaix composed his delightful suite for piano and wind quintet L’heure du berger
, subtitled ‘Musique de Brasserie’ in honour of a noted Paris restaurant. This was a kind of musique d’ameublement (‘background music’ might be an apt translation) score, such as was written in those days especially for Parisian fashion shows and the like, but—as one might expect from this fastidious composer—it is so well written that it stands independently as a highly appealing score. Technically, Françaix uses variation technique in this work, which falls into three short movements. The first opens humorously with clarinet and bassoon passing a simple phrase, one to the other, as if we had a maître d’ noted for his fun ushering us to our table. A faster new theme appears as the waiters busy about us before the opening idea returns. The central slow movement has a languid atmosphere, decorated with clarinet arabesques which gradually grow and proliferate in brilliance to create a vividly fascinating scene. The finale is a dazzling piece of much rhythmic subtlety; music which smiles throughout and is adorable in its tingling good humour before a scrap of a music-hall tune glides across the fabric of the score. The rhythmic luminosity of the music returns to end L’heure du berger
in a riot of colour.
from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 1998