About this Recording
8.223681 - DEVREESE: Benvenuta / L' Oeuvre au Noir / Un Soir, un Train

Frédéric Devreese (b. 1929):
Music to films by André Delvaux

Benvenuta (1983) (Suite, 1986)
Un Soir, un Train… (1968)
L'Oeuvre au Noir (1988) (Suite)
Belle (1973)


Frédéric Devreese is a composer of operas, orchestral works, concertos, ballets, music for plays and television dramas, chamber music, and, last but not least, film scores. In films for which he provided the music, brief fragments may be heard, arranged for various instruments and edited to suit the duration of the film sequence. Devreese always provides, however, an orchestral version of these scores, with the fragments interwoven into a full musical entity, suitable for performance in the concert-hall. These are then made into film suites, such as Benvenuta (1986), which contains a Habanera, Waltz and Tango, forming a dance suite, preceded by a dreamy prelude. This music is able to stand on its own, but within the film it is intended to provide a further dimension to the original, visual dramatic reality. Without actually being descriptive, the music is of a highly evocative nature. Although the early score for Un Soir, un Train… (1968) is closely related to the typical genre of smooth-sounding French film music, there is no playing to the audience with a singable tune, repeated to the point of tedium. On the contrary, the audience is stimulated into creative synaesthetic assimilation of diverging impulses for the eye and ear. The unifying musical theme is ever present, but assumes different guises, so that the viewer is constantly wondering whether he recognises it or not, rather than being comforted by the mere confirmation of repetition. In this way the elusive leitmotiv of Zénon in L'Oeuvre au Noir (1988) works as an image of youth and travelling, for the departure and for the nightmare of the principal character. The same is true of the main theme of Benvenuta, which maintains an underlying, almost imperceptible presence throughout the various dance movements. In Belle, too, as André Delvaux observes, the musical unit around which the entire film is constructed (Life ebbs away, life is gone with the wind), taken from the Bach Prelude in F minor, is the starting-point which is left far behind. Starting from there, Frédéric Devreese wrote all the music for the film, drawing the title-music from it at the beginning and at the end, the song, the more violent music used at certain points and the music corresponding to La Fagne and Belle. It may be added that this is the traditional rôle of the musician, starting from a unit, which is then developed into several parts and variations, depending on the requirements of the work.

Yves Knockaert




There is no difference of quality, ambition or standard between the music written by Frédénc Devreese for the seven films of André Delvaux and his symphonic works. Whether he is adapting his chamber music for symphony orchestra or composing for small ensembles, his imagination maintains its incredible instrumental and melodic inventiveness, always keeping within the limits of what the traditional spectator is able to recognise and assimilate, like the work of Stravinsky, Kurt Weill and Prokofiev. The music written by Frédéric Devreese for the four films Benvenuta, Un Soir, un Train…, L'Oeuvre au Noir and Belle can be listened to with total pleasure without the support of the films. Here he reaches, as Nino Rota for Fellini and Bernard Herrmann for Hitchcock, the level of the highest demands of which a director may dream.

André Delvaux




André Delvaux

The Times critic Penelope Houston described Belgium's foremost film-maker, André Delvaux as "a fastidious explorer of waking dreams and ghost stories of the mind, a film-maker who paints the lucid surfaces of quiet Flemish interiors and takes us disturbingly through shining mirrors." These excursions through the looking-glass have attracted frequent comparison with two well-known Belgian surrealists, Magritte and Paul Delvaux. André Delvaux acknowledges his debt to both - Paul Delvaux is admired for his use of mystery and Magritte for "the way he uses real elements put together in an illogical way." Somewhere in this Belgian surrealist strain, related to the Flemish school of Bosch and Breughel, lies the key to Delvaux's films, complex structures, like musical compositions, with elements of the real and the imagined, the past, present and future, repeated and reworked. Other recurrent themes in these symphonic structures are the idealisation of women, always beautiful, distant and mysterious, and the idea that beauty is intensified by death and decay. Delvaux's work is tantalising, elusive, suggestive and frequently highly erotic…

Glare Kiteon




The Films

In Benvenuta the search for background material for a screenplay brings François into contact with the author. Their meeting starts coolly but develops rapidly, as the passion in the story becomes entangled in their own personal involvement. Truth and fantasy merge, providing an intricate study of love, passion and denial. With expert performances by Vittorio Gassman, Fanny Ardant, Mathieu Carriere and Françoise Fabian, the film works on many levels.

Un Soir, un Train… again deals with the interplay between the real and the imaginary. This second film by Delvaux also stresses the isolating effect of language. Yves Montand plays the part of a Flemish professor, living with the beautiful, French-speaking Anouk Aimée. During a train journey where past, present and future, reality and fantasy, intermingle, there is an ever-increasing sense of the presence of death.

L'Oeuvre au Noir, based on a novel by Marguerite Yourcenar, is set in sixteenth century Flanders during the time of the Inquisition. Zénon, an alchemist, is wanted for dissent and return to his home-town of Bruges, where he hopes to be forgotten. He helps rebels and compromises himself, and the trap set by the authorities  closes on him. Convicted as a heretic and condemned to be burned at the stake, unless he repents, he prefers to take his fate into his own hands and one February night in Bruges he commits suicide.

In Belle a middle-aged man whose daughter is to be married, inspiring in him a degree of incestuous jealousy, goes on a journey and falls in love with a mysterious, perhaps imaginary woman. The film is a love-song, a lament for lost youth (a voice is heard singing "La vie s'en va, Ia vie s'en est allée au vent"). As Delvaux himself has said, the imaginary can introduce things that have not yet taken place but that will happen in reality later on, as in music you can announce a theme without stating it.


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