About this Recording
8.225070 - AURIC: Lola Montez / Notre-Dame de Paris / Farandole
English 

Georges Auric: Lola Montez / Notre-Dame de Paris / Farandole

Georges Auric studied at the Conservatoires of Montpellier and Paris and finally at the Schola Cantorum with Vincent d'Indy. In his early twenties he joined the composers Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Louis Durey and Germaine Tailleferre to form the famous Groupe des Six, of which Cocteau was a patron. Auric's talents are to be found predominantly in his music for the theatre and the screen. In addition to his ballets Les Matelots, Pastorale, Les Enchantements de la Fée Alcine, La Concurrence, Les Imaginaires, Le Peintre et son Modèle, Phèdre (on a libretto by Cocteau), Chemin de Lumière, La Chambre and Euridice written for the ballet companies of Sergey Dyagilev, Ida Rubinstein and David Lichine, his incidental scores and his opera Sous le masque, Auric's credits as a composer can be found on some forty French, forty American and fifteen British films. As a writer of both complete scores and of songs, Auric collaborated during almost half a century with such directors as Marc Allégret, Jean Delannoy, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Max Ophüls, William Wyler, John Houston, Otto Preminger, Charles Crichton, Thorold Dickinson, Terence Young and Henry Cornelius. Among his best known scores for British and American films are Passport to Pimlico (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), Roman Holiday (1953), Bonjour Tristesse (1957), Notre-Dame de Paris (1957) and The Innocents (1961). Above all, however, Auric is to be remembered for his unique collaboration with Jean Cocteau, including six films that were directed by Cocteau himself (Le Sang d'un Poète, La Belle et la Bête, Les Parents Terribles, L 'Aigle à deux Têtes, Orphée and Le Testament d'Orphée) and three directed by others, but with Cocteau as a script-writer (L'Eternel Retour, Ruy BIas and Thomas l'Imposteur).

Notre-Dame de Paris

William Dieterle's film The Hunchback of Notre-Dame of 1940, with Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara, had a notable musical score by Alfred Newman [available on Marco Polo 8.223750] and it is a fortunate coincidence that this and the score by Auric for the French Technicolor remake of 1956, with Gina Lollobrigida and Anthony Quinn, are being released on the same label. Compared to Jean Delannoy's lavishly photographed new version, the famous black-and-white classic remains unsurpassable, in spite of the fact that Hollywood's revival of medieval France rather suggests medieval Hollywood. As far as the more recent version is concerned, contemporary critics found it too dull, outdated and too long. Lollobrigida was considered to be miscast and Quinn to look more like Frankenstein than Quasimodo. Jacques Prévert as a writer of dialogues, Léonide Massine as a choreographer, Georges Auric as a composer of the incidental score and Francesco Lavagnino as a writer of additional songs and dances for Lollobrigida could have been a promising team, but it did not hinder this picture from disappearing in a short time from the cinemas and becoming one of those indestructible fillers of television afternoon programmes. Apart from the fact that Lollobrigida and Quinn supplied their original French speaking voices with marked foreign accents, Delannoy managed to obtain only poor performances from the more professional supporting cast, which included French theatre celebrities Alain Cuny, Robert Hirsch, Roger Blin and Boris Vian.

Besides Auric's incidental music, Notre-Dame de Paris contains a large number of "source" cues for dances, songs and choruses, making it in a way drown in too much of everything. For the original French version of the picture, lasting 150 minutes, exceeding all dubbed versions by twenty minutes, Auric had to compose extra music, including a longer Main Title. Listening to the incidental music separately (one should not forget that the advantage of film music recordings is that the music can eventually be enjoyed and studied separately, since it is better heard), I even come to the conclusion that Auric's score, of which only a very few cues can be properly heard in the film and on top of that in their entirety, is another example of a soundtrack of perhaps too high a level, which really deserved a better film.

That Lollobrigida was also going to sing and dance by herself was already a promotional device before the film's release and therefore, prior to shooting and before Auric began to work, Lavagnino had already written her numbers. Besides his rather "modern" sounding incidental score for symphony orchestra and for a film which was intended to appeal largely to less pretentious audiences, Auric too had to write a few additional dance pieces in the ancient style for an ensemble of two harps, two guitars and cello, some of which have been grouped on this recording into a short suite entitled Esmeralda, even though they also underscore various other scenes involving the hustle and bustle of the Beggars of Paris. Although their newly given titles sound rather anachronistic to the period in which the film is set, I have preferred to emphasize Auric's more romantic inspiration. Anachronism is in this particular picture (and in most historical films) not unusual anyway.

The symphonic five-movement suite of Notre-Dame de Paris opens with the Générique (here recorded in its shorter version) over a view of the cathedral's famous stained-glass rose-window. This movement ends in a short lyric Prologue, accompanying a camera pan, landing at the Greek inscription ANAYKH (Fatality, the motto of Victor Hugo's novel) on the wall of a side aisle of the cathedral and finally dissolving into a close-up of the open book with Victor Hugo's introductory words. The following short Marche des Truands, is heard in the film but in a too softly edited version and serving as an accompaniment to a song. With very little thematic material and a pointed instrumentation, Auric has created a very effective piece, which caused applause during our Moscow sessions, not because it was the very last piece we recorded, but because it found immediate approval among some eighty generally very critical musicians. The unhappy rendezvous of Esmeralda and Phoebus, ending with the latter being stabbed by a jealous Frollo, is a combination of two separate, but consecutive pieces (Le rendez-vous - L'attentat), in which we recognize Auric's typical and skilful combination of diatonic (lyrical) passages with chromatic (dramatic) themes to build up short brassy climaxes. The more one-sided love affair between Esmeralda and Quasimodo is the subject of the next movement, entitled Des fleurs pour Esmeralda, at the beginning a tender and transparent piece of modal character, whose increasing dramatic interventions describe the young gypsy's fears in front of the Hunchback's looks and Frollo's jealous threats. The suite's finale (Désespoir de Quasimodo - La cave de Montfaucon) opens with Quasimodo throwing Frollo over the upper balcony of the cathedral after having witnessed Esmeralda' s death, and his collapse over her body in the cave near the gallows, where it had been dragged.

In this score, Auric worked with a handful of clearly recognizable leitmotifs as, for example, the hymn which may be associated with the cathedral itself, first heard in the string passage following the bell-ringing opening of the Generique. In the same movement appears also a candid love theme played by the flute, which will be heard frequently in cantabile string passages in the following lyrical sections of the score. The "Destiny" motif of darker character can be heard towards the end of the Générique and (unlike the earlier motifs) it reappears later in definitely more variated forms, especially in the last movement.

The score of Notre-Dame de Paris involves a traditional symphonic ensemble with percussion, augmented by cor anglais, bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, vibraphone, celesta, glockenspiel, piano, organ and two harps.

Before it had been adapted for the screen for the first time in 1923, in a silent version with Lon Chaney as Quasimodo, Victor Hugo's novel Notre-Dame de Paris of 1831 had inspired quite a few opera and ballet composers, the last and better-known of which is Franz Schmidt, from whose opera Notre-Dame, completed in 1906, a haunting Interlude has become famous. The most recent screen version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame comes from Walt Disney Productions, with a musical score by Alan Menken.

Lola Montez

A film biography of Maria Dolores Pones y Montez ( 1818-1861 ), the famous, beautiful femme fatale of Irish extraction (her real name was Eliza Gilbert) who had once turned the heads of Franz Liszt, Fréderic Chopin, Prosper Mérimée, Alexandre Dumas senior and King Ludwig I of Bavaria, to mention only the most illustrious. During her colourful love life, she had toured as a dancer and acted as a political spy, before travelling to Australia and to America and eventually settling down towards the end of her life as a religious recluse.

Max Ophüls' film of 1955, the last of his successful career and his only colour picture, was a costly Cinemascope production, shot simultaneously in French, German and English. It was based on a script by Cécil Saint-Laurent and featured Martine Carol in the title rôle. Ivan Desny, Oskar Werner, Will Quadflieg and Anton Walbrook played the parts of Lola's most famous lovers, and multilingual Sir Peter Ustinov appeared as the cynical Ringmaster of the American Circus which had hired the disgraced Lola to appear as a show-booth attraction.

The script of Lola Montez is a sequence of flashbacks, bringing the viewer always back to the Circus, an opulent and bizarrely choreographed arena where in fact the film's best scenes are taking place and in which Lola is exhibited to the public to recount her scandalous past and to perform as a trapeze artist. At the end of her performance, Lola even has to take her place in an animal's cage outside, to be admired and touched by a queue of extra paying spectators.

The opportunity to underscore such a colourful picture and to work with a great director would have made any film composer's mouth water and Ophüls' choice for Georges Auric brought excellent results. Auric's versatility and theatrical feeling contributed the right sound track with easy-going tunes, short dance or character pieces and dramatic symphonic sequences, appropriately underscoring the Romantic script. No matter in which country Lola's adventures were to take place, Auric was able to furnish the right musical colour and this in perfect harmony with Ophüls' sensitive touch, elegant irony or sarcastic social criticism.

The main body of the score is made up of three Waltzes. The first one is a slow and rather static Waltz, heard in the Générique (Lola on her pedestal in the middle of the Circus arena, in G) and in the Epilogue (Lola in her cage, in E flat), which I associate with Lola's "present", as a failed, lonely and almost dead woman, trying to preserve her dignity and elegance. The second and third Waltzes are of more lively and brilliant character and orchestration: their almost identical themes are constructed on either ascending or descending thematic cells (Valse de la Bienvenue, in A flat, Valse des Adieux, in E flat), underscoring Lola's "past", be it her childhood and disturbed relationship with a frivolous mother, or her own frivolous mature career. The theme of Valse des Adieux is heard for the first time in a flashback describing Lola's affair with Franz Liszt. It is actually the composer who in the film writes this miniature as a farewell gift to Lola, after he had to learn from her that she would leave him. Although the themes of these two Walzes are very simple and popular, they never enjoyed the huge success of the Waltz from Moulin Rouge (1952), the piece which earned for Auric considerable royalties during thirty years. The present suite contains two lengthy and full orchestra versions of Valse des Adieux; the two animated Waltzes are heard in the film over and over again, also in the form of quotations of a couple of bars.

An interesting feature of this score is the inclusion of five saxophones in the wind section of the orchestra, in order to emphasize the Circus atmosphere in which the main action takes place, but even more important and original is the fact that the Circus sound also reappears in various musical cues of flashback episodes, which is surely to remind the viewer that real life too can often become a circus.

Besides the already mentioned saxophones, the orchestral ensemble of Lola Montez requires, in addition to the usual strings, three flutes, two oboes and cor anglais, four clarinets and bass clarinet, two bassoons, three horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, piano, harp, vibraphone, celesta and glockenspiel and nine different percussion instruments. In this film and in Notre-Dame de Paris the sound track was conducted by Jacques Météhen, a long-time collaborator of Auric.

Farandole

Farandole figures among several filmic adaptations of Arthur Schnitzler's notorious play Reigen ( Round Dance, 1900), two of which, made by the famous directors Max Ophüls (La Ronde, 1950) and Roger Vadim (La Ronde, 1964), cast into oblivion André Zwoboda's F!ench realisation of 1944, entitled Farandole, and a German one of 1963 by Alfred Weidenmann. A silent version of Re;gen had also been realised in 1920. Zwoboda's picture, featuring actors Gaby Morlay, Jany Holt, Andre Luguet, Bernard Blier and Maurice Escande, not only seems to have disappeared hopelessly from French movie theatres, but also from television, cinema collections and museums. Consequently, there was no way to find a print as yet and the fact that Auric's manuscript bore nothing more than the film's title and no titles for single cues made the editing of the present suite seem a hazardous undertaking. But the more I studied the score, the more I liked it, making me decide to include it in the present recording. However, I would not be surprised if one day a print of the film turned up, that but a few moments by Auric may be found, as had been in the case of another film, Macao, l'Enfer du jeu, a score which will be featured in the next volume of Auric's film scores on CD. Needless to say, the titles given here have been inspired by the mood of the music and a sequence feeling following the original play's text.

Schnitzler's play is a sequence of ten scenic dialogues between loving couples, whose culminating moments of sexual intercourse are suggested in the text neither by dialogue, nor by directing indications, but by some more than meaningful lines of little dashes. The most scandalous aspect of the whole is that one partner always reappears in the next scene, as having a liaison with another partner and that the little whore of the first scene is having intercourse with the protagonist of the last one, closing thus this circle of infidelity and plainly justifying the play's title. A curious aspect of the mentioned filmic versions of Reigen is that all but one have been conceived either by French directors or by a German director in a version with French actors. Schnitzler's fabulously frivolous dialogues seemed, apparently, to suit better a French background or appeal to French audiences. Still, the reading of Reigen in its original language remains to me a rare and unforgettable example of esprit français from the Austria of the turn of the century.

The music of Farandole sounds more like Auric's earlier works for the cinema, considering that not much later he was to write those scores for Jean Cocteau which not only would become his masterworks, but also landmarks of his post-impressionistic or symbolistic symphonic style, requiring also larger orchestral forces. Later, in the 1940s, Auric would even find another congenial style, while scoring some English comedies like Passport to Pimlico and The Lavender Hill Mob. Farandole sounds like those scores of older French cinema, written for a Berliner ensemble, by Maurice Jaubert, Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert, in which alto saxophone and piano were indispensable to overcome sound balance problems caused by the still rather primitive microphone technique of the 1930s. Highly atmospheric moments, reached with the use of a minimum of structural and instrumental means make this score eventually akin to the works of the German neue Sachlichkeit or the neoclassicism of Paul Hindemith, Hans Eisler and Kurt Weill.

The orchestration of Farandole is quite reduced, compared to the ones of Notre-Dame de Paris and Lola Montez: besides flutes, clarinets and trumpets in pairs, oboe, cor anglais, alto saxophone, bassoon, bass clarinet and trombone are all soli. In addition, timpani, harp, piano, strings and a modest percussion section including triangle, cymbals and tenor drum are required.

Adriano
edited by Keith Anderson


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