Monday, February 24, 2014

Music Monday ~ Michel Legrand

Michel Legrand has a birthday today, 24 February - it'll be his 82nd, may he have many more! Because it's accurate and "just right", I'm stealing John Lewis's opening line from his review in The Guardian of Michel Legrand's 2012 concert at Ronnie Scott's in London:
"Michel Legrand has the kind of musical CV that makes everyone else's look like a sick note."

Everyone over...40? 50? knows some of the film themes and lovely songs composed by Michel Legrand. I'm not sure whether these have percolated through to the Facebook, i-tunes generation yet, if not, they're missing out on lots of good music.

From the entry on Michel Legrand at Songwriters' Hall of Fame website:
His most unforgettable work is the classic 1964 film, "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," which marked his first recognition from the Motion Picture Academy. He won his first Academy Award for Best Song for "The Windmills of Your Mind," which appeared in the 1968 film, "The Thomas Crown Affair." He later picked up the Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score, for the movie "The Summer of '42," and years later, in 1984, he won for Best Original Song Score for the Barbra Streisand movie, "Yentl," a work which Time Magazine called, "the most romantic, coherent and sophisticated movie score since "Gigi" a quarter century ago."

But Legrand is remembered almost as well for a number of songs that didn't win Oscar awards (although some were nominated). Among the more notable are "Pieces of Dreams," "Brian's Song," "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life," "I Will Wait for You," "Watch What Happens" (both from "Umbrellas") and from the movie "The Young Girls of Rochefort," the well-remembered "You Must Believe in Spring." One of Legrand's most recent hit songs is the melodic "How Do You Keep the Music Playing," from "Best Friends."

In addition to his prodigious writing skills, Legrand is a conductor of renown and a virtuoso jazz pianist. He has conducted and appeared with such ensembles as The Pittsburgh Symphony, The Minnesota Orchestra, The Buffalo Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans, Montreal and Vancouver."
He has made more than 100 albums and collaborated with numerous major stars of all genres: pop, jazz, blues, Broadway, classical...... I love that the man can certainly be no kind of music snob. He embraces all genres, treats each with the same level of respect and attention.

From an essay by vocalist Melissa Errico describing her collaboration with Michel Legrand to produce an album of his songs, we get a peek into one facet of his personality and the way he works:
"So, Michel and I played through his songs, and always quietly and tenderly. Neither of us seemed to want to do anything theatrical or bombastic—we found ourselves exploring the poetic words, and meandering through his painfully gorgeous melodies, always with intimacy. I knew the stories of his films, and if I didn't know the stories behind the songs, he would let me know. The lyrics themselves would hit me and I'd know right away if something was mine to sing.
Sh-K-Boom & Ghostlight Records
Michel would feel it too, and he would play and decorate and inspire me along with his extraordinary pianistic color, which flows from him like water. I'd hold the melody and the meanings while he would go to wild corners of his imagination, sometimes bringing in classical motifs or jazz or folk. He would write notes in the margins like "Mozart meets folk" or "Ravel concerto in G major"and then his hands would sort of combine these elements in a fascinating way. I would sit at the piano bench and delight in his creativity, and at the same time I would feel completely lost in the simplicity of a truthful song, and I'd feel totally balanced. It was a strange thing but it started coming together. We spoke of some of our favorite cds (such as Shirley Horn Here's To Life/with Strings and Joni Mitchell including her beautiful orchestral Both Sides, Now album) and Michel was certain it had to be a huge symphonic recording. How on earth would that actually ever happen I thought!? , "enormone, intime, sensuelle" he said. 100 musicians in a symphony for an intimate cd? Well, that's just what we set out to do."

Michel Legrand was born on 24 February 1932 in Paris, France at 12.21pm (data from

What best represents his astro-signature? I think Venus conjunct Uranus in Aries trine Jupiter in Leo would be a good fit. Venus (the arts), Uranus (the modern and inventive) Jupiter (prolific, widely published) all in Fire signs: energy, enthusiasm.

In interview, here, when asked: Did you find a film like 'Les Demoiselles... ' difficult to score? He relied:
‘It was not easy. My natural instinct is to always write sad music. It is instinctively really what comes out of me. So it was difficult for me to write something so lively, because all the tunes are happy, fast, allegro. So I had to force myself to write happy, happy, happy. And then the next day, happy again. I had to force myself a little!’
That revelation doesn't quite fit the bright enthusiasm of Fire. His natal Moon at 7 Libra trines Saturn (00 Aquarius), so his inner artistic sensitivity is under a kind of cold dampening effect from Saturn, and Moon is opposite Venus (his music) too.

Sun and Mercury conjoined at 2 and 4 Pisces, underline his creativity and imaginative talent. Mars at 29 Aquarius might be considered as conjoined with Sun/Mercury, though 2 degrees might be seen as too wide a difference - anyway it adds a certain type of novel and inventive energy to the mix. Pisces and Aquarius are not uncomfortable neighbours; in this case Aquarius' ruler Uranus is in trine to Pisces traditional ruler Jupiter, helping to harmonise the blend.

Happy birthday Michel Legrand!

I Will Wait For You with M. Legrand on piano, jazzing up his composition:

What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? Barbra Streisand with M.Legrand - here she's unprepared and put on the spot:

The Summer Knows from the film Summer of '42. With his wife Catherine Michel playing the harp he conducts... then sings a bit:

My own favourite composition by M. Legrand is
How Do You Keep the Music Playing? with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman for the 1982 film Best Friends. I didn't much like any of the vocal versions on YouTube, they're all encumbered by adverts anyway, but this stripped down simple and simply lovely version by pianist Adelmo Francisco lets the melody's beauty show clearly:


mike said...

His Sun-Mercury conjunction in early Pisces is opposed Neptune in early Virgo, third house. Music is probably his preferred method of expression (3rd house) and intellectual meaning (9th house). Mercury and Neptune are in mutual reception, too. Likewise, his Sun and Jupiter (Jupiter also on the 3rd house cusp and Jupiter rules the 9th house, the house of his Sun's placement) are in mutual reception. He has a big emphasis on 3rd-9th house and Pisces.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for those additions. Lots of harmony goin' on in his chart! :-)

Anonymous said...

My favorites are " Pieces of Dreams' from the movie of the same name and "What are you doing the rest of your life" From 'the Happy Ending'. Both of these films I watch every so often; they are part unsung gems,part guilty pleasure but Michel's music is both elegant and heartbreaking taken in context with both films.

My girlfriend went to see him in concert either in Philadelphia or Atlantic City (one or the other) and she said the audience was horrible, talking through the show and leaving before it was over. I ncan't imagine why he would play either place.

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~ I'm not familiar with the first you mention, but I've always loved "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" since the first time I heard Sinatra sing it. :-)

Elegant is right! It's sad to hear that he went unappreciated in two major US cities - maybe because he's not American. Tsk! I hope that , as he left, he was saying to himself "I'm too good for this place!" But I don't get the feeling that he's that kind of guy.