Dr. N.A.N.'s Blog

News, views, and how the world skews from San Antonio, Texas

Claude Françaix

Dr. NAN & Claude FrancaixLast time I was in Paris, I had the opportunity to meet one of the daughters of composer Jean Françaix. Claude Françaix lives in Orléans, but makes frequent visits to Paris to care for her ailing mother and her mother’s two pets.

We met over tea and ice cream (from Berthillion, where else?). She shared many funny stories about her father and gave me some insight into his way of thinking about music and life. Claude explained that her father loved ambiguity in all things. For instance, when she was born, Monsieur Françaix declared that she should be called Claude because of the ambiguity of the name itself. He wanted the world to wonder if she was a little boy or a little girl. When her sister was born, he tried the same thing but their mother would have nothing to do with it!

Claude also told me when Jean Françaix was a young man, he would occasionally accompany a choir that his mother conducted. He was appalled at the choir’s lack of intonation and noticed that the only person singing in tune was a young girl. He later claimed that he chose that young girl to be his wife because she sang in tune!

For most of the meeting, we spoke French. I had asked my parents to participate so that when I had difficulty with either comprehension or articulation, they could help with translation. Although they seemed interested at the beginning, somewhere in the middle of our conversation, I looked over to see my father with his head drooped, quietly napping. I then turned to my mother who was valiantly trying to stay awake! So I still wonder if I understood everything Claude was saying…

At one point, Claude described to me the apartment that her parents shared. She said that it is practically a museum filled with most of her father’s memorabilia. Can you imagine the treasure trove it must contain? Her mother continues to live in it but prefers not to have any visitors. What I would give to poke around in Jean Françaix’s home of many years!
We ended our meeting with a promise to stay in touch and for Claude to send me more stories about her father. She also gave me a CD that she and her father had recorded of his works for two pianos. The playing was lovely and the ensemble was very tight. And I know a little something about this, having recorded my share of two-piano CDs..

Talking to Claude felt like I was sitting across from history itself. Here was a woman who knew Jean Françaix intimately, had spent much of her life learning from him and had even made music with him. I look forward to meeting with Claude again, immersing myself in more of Jean Françaix and maybe even getting the chance to snoop around his old home.

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