Michel Legrand, French digital piano player extraordinaire celebrates his 82nd birthday today. Legrand is not just noted for his virtuosic performances but also his contribution as a composer of film music. His discography for the screen and theatre is vast with awards and nominations being amongst the highest given to an instrumentalist this century. Legrand music is exactly that – le grand; an accomplished repertoire of scores and recordings from landmark films such as ‘’The Thomas Crown Affair’’. With a rapturous melody that tears at the heart strings and at 82; Legrand remains a major player of note.
A Legrand Affair
The ‘’Thomas Crown Affair’’ was a film made in 1968 with the music composed by Michel Legrand to be later used as the film’s main theme. The track was the song ‘’Windmills of Your Mind’’ originally sung by Noel Harrison, accompanied on digital grand piano and depicting the tested relationship between high-flying bank robber played by Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.
A Legendary Find
The idea for the main theme which spans the introductory first two lines of music is taken from Mozart’s ‘Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra’ of 1779. The slow second movement is dominated by a serene string section from the onset playing close harmonies and under-played by horn pedal. The main ‘’windmills’’ melody in C minor and with the lilting time signature of 3/4 is easily discernable with its swooping, rise-and-fall melodic line and modulated to Eminor and 4/4 time in the Legrand transcription with a doubling quaver shaping:
‘’Round like a cir-cle in a spi-ral, Like a wheel, with-in a wheel’’.
E B B C C B B E E B B G G F# E F# etc
Mozart’s Concertante has drawn the interest of composers ever since the Legrand borrowings including the 1979 film ‘Sophie’s Choice’ and used to highlight several drownings and later in 2002 for the Turkish film ‘Uzak’ about two relatives and the emotional distance between them. Either way the haunting, gipsy-like melody composed in the lower register has a despairing aspect also reflects Mozarts’ own melancholy and musical struggle.
Legrand Old Age of 82
As recently as 2013 Legrand was still on top musical form as he recorded more jazz-oriented numbers including ‘’Entre Elle Et Lui’’ with operatic virtuoso Natalie Dessay. His versatility as a musician is noted as Legrand continues to reinvent himself ‘’as an ever-spinning wheel’’.