Our second album (Next!) highlights three different genres of French music: A youthful work by Fauré, written in the late romantic piano quartet tradition, character pieces by Ravel in a new arrangement for piano quartet and an eclectic mix of contemporary interpretations of French Chansons from Claude Le Jeune up to Georges Brassens.
Some years later we received an unexpected gift: The first movement of Ravel’s Ma Mère l´Oye arranged for piano quartet by our friend Shintaro Sakabe. “Try it,” he said, “I think it might work”. The success of this first movement quickly led to him arranging the rest of the suite. Each handwritten movement came in one by one, unexpected presents we gleefully opened at the start of rehearsals. Before long, we were including his arrangement in our concert programs. The magic of this version lies, we think, in the fact that Shintaro based it on the four-hand piano version instead of the orchestral version. It is very intimate, personal and objective, but we sometimes get a wave of the orchestral sound. It is perhaps the very essence of the French chamber music tradition.
But the idea that brought everything together for this recording was Project Chanson. The idea origins from my personal experience; without understanding French, I was always drawn to French Chansons. They popped up on my father’s mixed tapes in the car and, as a teenager, I was fascinated by the extremely emotional songs like “ne me quitte pas” by Brel. The fact that I barely understood the text didn’t bother me: The theatrical gestures, the beautiful orchestrations and the way they delivered these incomprehensible texts were very powerful to me. If I could be moved by this music without understanding the text, would it be possible to perform French Chansons in a version for piano quartet without voice? Would the message or the character stay alive? This is what I was debating and, after convincing my Flex friends, we approached 3 composers and 2 arrangers. It was important to all of us that we would receive 5 totally different songs, hopefully in differing styles. And that is exactly what happened.