The Kennedy Center

Aubade for 12 celli

About the Work

Jean Françaix Composer: Jean Françaix
© Richard E. Rodda

Jean Françaix composed his Aubade in 1975 for the 25th anniversary of the Berliner Festwochen ; it was dedicated to, and premiered on September 30, 1975 by, the Twelve Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic. The aubade ? a ? song at dawn ? ? traces back to the medieval troubadours, and came during the 17th century in France to denote cheerful instrumental music played early in the day for civic ceremonies or the king's pleasure. The title had been taken over into French concert music by the 19th century.

Françaix's Aubade comprises a succession of complementary pieces of generally bright character, each of which the composer headed with a suggestive quotation from the Lettres d'un Voyager in which George Sand shared impressions of her travels during the years of her intermittent affair with the poet Alfred de Musset. The Aubade opens with a gently flowing song at dawn (? The pleasant republic of the dozen instrumentalists reveals to us ineffable things ?); the Allegro ritmico is an undulating evocation of sunrise (? It's a flight of spirits, envoys to disturb the rest of Sleeping Beauty ?); the Allegretto amabile is a graceful waltz (? What the orchestra leaves behind, like a perfume, the sounds of a concert ?); the Vivacissimo would be the perfect music to accompany the afternoon outing of a carefree boulevardier (? All the peoples of the world are not worth one well-placed chromatic scale ?); the Andante is lyrical and just slightly sensuous (? You are mirrored with the air of a sultana in the music ?). Françaix headed the finale ( Presto ) with another extract from Sand ? ? What they spread around, these old gossips, with their voices of rheumatic frogs ? ? but he also described it in his own, more contemporary terms: ?The finale will make the instruments roar like the racing cars at Le Mans, my home town. It will be so loud that even the deaf members of the audience will applaud, spurred on by the sight of flashing bows and demonic expressions on the faces of the twelve performers.?