The legendary French film composer, five-time Grammy winner and triple Oscar winner Michel Legrand has chosen the RTÉ Concert Orchestra to record his latest album. Legrand is a musical icon, with a catalogue of classic compositions including The Windmills of Your Mind, the scores for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Yentl, Summer of ’42 and more.
The album, to be recorded in Studio 1, RTÉ Radio Centre over the next two days and released on Universal, features classic jazz numbers arranged specially by Legrand for his wife, world-renowned harpist Catherine Michel. The pieces are by greats including John Coltrane, Django Reinhardt, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Michel Legrand himself, all performed in these new arrangements for harp and orchestra. (Full list below.)
Michel Legrand chose the RTÉ Concert Orchestra to work on the album following his two very successful concerts with the orchestra in summer 2010 and on New Year’s Eve 2012. This album will be the latest addition to an increasingly prestigious stable of RTÉ CO recordings. Recent projects, also recorded in RTÉ Radio Centre, have included the soundtrack to Calvary by Patrick Cassidy, soundtracks to Amos’ Wake and the award-winning Albert Nobbs, both by RTÉ CO Artist in Residence Brian Byrne, and an album with top Irish instrumental band Lúnasa.
Catherine Michel, appointed principal harpist of the Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Paris in 1978, played under conductors such as Bernstein, Boehm, Boulez, Celibidache, Maazel, Metha, Ozawa and Rostropovitch. She is now leading the Harp Department at the Zurich University and holds masterclasses all over the world. In order to expand the harp repertoire, she developed an interest in film music and musicals. In collaboration with Michel Legrand, the harp became a solo instrument accompanied by a symphony orchestra or by an unexpected formation: big band. She has won numerous awards for her recordings, and as the duo Catherine-Michel-Legrand she and her husband have appeared in the world’s top venues, among the Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
Catherine Michel will be completing a journey when she joins the RTÉ CO as soloist, having herself played harp with the orchestra in the 1960s. Graduating from the Paris conservatory at the age of 15, she had no family to support her. There were a lot of French musicians working in Ireland at that time, and her harp teacher knew a lot of them. Asked to recommend a good pupil prepared to come and work with the RTÉ CO as soon as possible, he suggested it to Catherine, who immediately accepted.
In her words: ‘I loved that moment of my life. I loved the people, the country, the music, I loved the architecture of Dublin, It was the first time that I had money to buy books, go to the cinema . . . I was discovering life. Ireland is my country ever since and all my harpist colleagues are like sisters to me.’
Pieces to be recorded by harpist Catherine Michel and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, conducted by Michel Legrand
Django John Lewis
Naima John Coltrane
Nuages Django Reinhardt
Blue Rondo à la Turk Dave Brubeck
Con Alma Dizzy Gillespie
Love Ballade Oscar Peterson
Round Midnight Thelonious Monk
Watch What Happens Michel Legrand
Saint Louis Blues W. C. Handy
Body and Soul George Gershwin
Caravan Duke Ellington
Solitude Duke Ellington