Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2011 by Fred Flaxman

Program 188
"Michel Legrand"


MUSIC: Michel Legrand: Concertino “Un été 42” for Piano and Orchestra performed by Danielle Laval with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo conducted by Pascal Verrot [Naîve V 4979, Track 1] [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and I’m going to devote the next hour to the beautiful, melancholy, unforgettable, romantic melodies of the contemporary French composer, pianist, conductor, singer, recording artist, and collector of awards: Michel Legrand. We’ll listen to excerpts from his music for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Summer of '42, and Yentl.

MUSIC: ends

Michel Legrand’s Concertino “Un été '42” for Piano and Orchestra. Danielle Laval was the pianist with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo conducted by Pascal Verrot.

MUSIC: beginning of Michel Legrand: I Will Wait for You / Je ne pourai jamais vivre sans toi , trio version, performed by Michel Legrand, piano; Marc Michel Le Bevillon, bass; André Ceccarelli, percussion [Sony SM2K 62678, track 17]

Michel Jean Legrand was born in the Paris suburbs in 1932. His father, Raymond Legrand, was a conductor and composer. He wrote the music for the Broadway hit Irma la douce. His mother was the sister of a conductor. His sister, Christiane Legrand, was a member of the Swingle Singers, and his niece, Victoria Legrand, is a member of the indie rock duo Beach House.

Michel Legrand is best known as a composer of film scores. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that he has written about 200 of them. But he has also written TV scores, musicals, and has made well over a hundred record albums.

Michel Legrand has won three Oscars out of 13 nominations, five Grammys, and has been nominated for one Emmy. He was only 22 when his first album, I Love Paris, became one of the best-selling instrumental albums ever released. He is a virtuoso jazz and classical pianist and an accomplished arranger and conductor who performs with orchestras all over the world.

Legrand attended the Paris Conservatory from 1943 through 1950, from the age of 11 until 18. There he studied with Nadia Boulanger, the famous teacher of many other composers, including Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, and Astor Piazzolla. Legrand graduated with top honors as both a composer and pianist.

Legrand composed film scores for directors Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Brooks, Claude Lelouch, Clint Eastwood, Robert Altman, and many others. Legrand himself appears and performs in Agnès Varda’s French New Wave classic, Cleo from 5 to 7, which was released in 1961. After his songs appeared in Jacques Denny’s films The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in 1964 and The Young Girls of Rochefort in 1966, Legrand became famous worldwide. The movie The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was a sung-through musical in which all the dialogue was set to music, as in opera.

This was the French movie that brought Legrand to the attention of Hollywood, which soon bombarded him with requests to compose music for its films. So let’s bring on the music now with infectious melodies excerpted from the film score of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg/The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This is from a two-CD Sony release.

MUSIC: Michel Legrand: excerpts from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg [Sony SM2K 62678]

Excerpts from the original soundtrack of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg/The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, music by Michel Legrand. That was from a two-CD set put out by Sony compact discs. Incidentally, to truly appreciate that musical, it’s perhaps better if you don’t understand a word of French, as the lyrics as well as the story are as trite as can be. This is exactly the opposite of the lyrics to Yentl, which we’ll sample later. Those are among the best, most meaningful, and most appropriate lyrics of any musical ever written, in my opinion.

The second CD of the Umbrellas of Cherbourg set has several bonus tracks related to the film music, including this recording of Watch What Happens, sung by Tony Bennett accompanied by The Ralph Sharon Trio and the Will Bronson Singers. The arrangement is by Don Costa.

MUSIC: Legrand/Gimbel: Watch What Happens sung by Tony Bennett accompanied by The Ralph Sharon Trio and the Will Parapluies Singers [Sony SM2K 62678, CD 2, Track 16] [2:58]

Watch What Happens, music by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Norman Gimbel, sung by Tony Bennett accompanied by The Ralph Sharon Trio and the Will Bronson Singers. The arrangement was by Don Costa.

You are listening to the music of Michel Legrand on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing]

Once drawn to Hollywood, Michel Legrand continued to work there for many years. Among his best-known Hollywood scores are those for The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968, which features the hit song, The Windmills of Your Mind, and Summer of ‘42 from 1971, which features another hit song, The Summer Knows.

MUSIC: Legrand/Marnay: Les Moulins de mon Coeur, performed by Michel Legrand [Podis/PolyGram 830 878-2, Track 1] [3:26]

MUSIC: Legrand/Alan and Marilyn Bergman: The Summer Knows, sung by David Hobson accompanied by Sinfonia Australis conducted by Guy Noble [ABC 476 160-4, Track 10] [3:33]

Michel Legrand himself sang Les moulins de mon coeur. The French lyrics are by E. Marnay. In English the song is called The Windmills of Your Mind. The English lyrics are by Marilyn and Alan Bergman. The song was used in the 1968 movie, The Thomas Crown Affair.

Then we heard Legrand’s The Summer Knows, sung by David Hobson accompanied by Sinfonia Australis conducted by Guy Noble on an ABC Classics compact disc from Australia provided to Compact Discoveries by ArkivMusic.com.

Next, I’m pleased to say, we come to one of my very favorite musical films, Barbara Streisand’s Yentl. I say “Barbara Streisand’s Yentl” because Barbara Streisand was the director, one of three producers, one of two screenwriters, and the star, in addition to the fact that she was the one and only singer. The music was composed by Michel Legrand, who wrote several infectious tunes for the score. I say “infectious” because they seem to musically infect your brain and play over and over there for hours, maybe even days after you’ve heard them. At least that’s the way they work for me.

Yentl is based on the play of the same name by Leah Napolin and Isaac Bashevis Singer, which was itself based on Singer’s short story, Yentl the Yeshiva Boy.

The story incorporates humor and music to tell the tale of a Jewish girl in Poland in the early 20th Century who decides to dress and live like a man so that she can receive an education in Talmudic Law after her father dies. The film received the Academy Award for Best Original Score and the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture Comedy and Best Director for Streisand, making her the first woman to have won the Best Director prize at the Golden Globes.

The music is all sung by Barbra Streisand, who plays the part of Yentl Mendel. All the songs are monologues reflecting Yentl’s thoughts. The superb lyrics, which are by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, work perfectly with the music to advance the story being told. The film is also beautifully photographed, edited, and acted, the other major parts being played by Mandy Patinkin and Amy Irving. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you rent or buy it. I can’t believe you would be disappointed. But if you’re as emotional as I am, make sure you have a box of tissues or a handkerchief by your side when you view it. And yet the film brings forth as much laughter as it does tears.

Here’s a sampling of the soundtrack from the original Columbia Records compact disc. Even the music by itself makes me tear up, especially Can You Hear Me, Papa?

MUSIC: Legrand/Alan and Marilyn Bergman: excerpts from the soundtrack for the motion picture Yentl, sung by Barbra Streisand [Columbia CK 39152, tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9]

Excerpts from the soundtrack of the 1983 motion picture, Yentl, sung by Barbra Streisand. We heard Where Is It Written?, Papa, Can You Hear Me?, No Wonder, The Way He Makes Me Feel, Will Someone Ever Look at Me That Way?, and No Matter What Happens. The music was by Michel Legrand. Lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.

We’ll conclude this hour devoted to the music of the contemporary French composer Michel Legrand with one more song featuring the composer as singer: Comme elle est longue à mourir ma jeunesse, literally “How long it takes for my youth to die.” This is your guide, Fred Flaxman, inviting you to join me again next time for more Compact Discoveries!

MUSIC: Legrand/Dréjac: Comme elle est longue à mourir ma jeunesse, performed by Michel Legrand [Podis/PolyGram 830 878-2, Track 10] [3:04]

ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Book Publishers and their latest offering, a tongue-in-cheek memoir by Compact Discoveries host Fred Flaxman called Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster. And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by contributions to local public radio stations by listeners like you. Thank you. [0:28]

Total Program Timing: 58:50