FRANCAIX Jean (1912-1997)
Jean René Désiré Françaix; 23 May 1912 in Le Mans – 25 September 1997 in Paris) was a French neoclassical composer, pianist, and orchestrator, known for his prolific output and vibrant style.
Françaix's natural gifts were encouraged from an early age by his family: his father, Director of the Conservatoire of Le Mans, was a musicologist, composer, and pianist, and his mother, a teacher of singing. He studied at the Conservatoire of Le Mans and then at the Paris Conservatory, and he was only six when he took up composing with a style heavily influenced by Ravel.
His first publication, in 1922, caught the attention of a composer working for the publishing house who steered the gifted boy toward a gifted teacher, Nadia Boulanger. After her sister's death in 1918, she devoted her life to conducting, playing the organ and teaching. She soon became among the most celebrated teachers of musical composition in the 20th century with a list of students whose names include Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Elliott Carter and many more.
She encouraged Françaix's career, considering the young composer to be one of the best, if not the best, of her students. Noted pianist and pedagogue Isidor Philipp also taught him. Françaix himself often played his own works, to public acclaim; notably in the premiere of his Concertino for Piano and Orchestra at the festival of Baden-Baden in 1932.
By 1932 he had his Huit Bagatelles played at the Vienna Festival by the Kollisch Quartet and himself at the piano, while in Paris his Concertino for piano and orchestra was heard in 1933.
His compositions continued to be played during the 1930s in Paris. A String Trio (1933), a Fantaisie for cello and orchestra, Three duos for two sopranos, a Sonatine for violin and piano, a Quintet and a Serenade for small orchestra (1934). 1935 saw the premiere of his Quadruple Concerto for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Orchestra, and 1936 of a piano concerto.
His music was also used for ballets: Le Roi nu, Les Malheurs de Sophie (both for Paris) and Jeu Sentimental (for Brussels).
He was an accomplished pianist from an early age, earning a First Prize in Piano at the Paris Conservatory, and toured throughout Europe and the U.S. He performed notably in a duo with the French cellist Maurice Gendron, and also performed the Poulenc Two Piano Concerto with Francis Poulenc for several engagements when Jacques Février was not available. He even premiered his concerto for two pianos with his daughter, pianist Claude Françaix, in 1964.