The Ulster Orchestra, Thierry Fischer

Jean Françaix

Jean Françaix (1912-1997), a modern master of immediate appeal but without clichés, wrote music of urbane wit and refreshing tunefulness. His artful, polished music also could shock the sophisticated listener with its disarming simplicity. Take the Symphony in G Major “in memory of Joseph Haydn,” a modern neoclassical score akin to, but very different from, Sergei Prokofiev’s famous “Classical Symphony,” composed in 1953 for the La Jolla Orchestra. Françaix, inspired by Haydn’s wit rather than literal content, penned a smiling, rambunctious score that bubbles along within a four-movement classical-symphony framework. The opening movement shocks in its major-key simplicity but soon entices the ear, “Minuet and Trio” is foppish and clowning, and the quirky finale you’ll return to again and again.