Legendary Legrand fresh as ever

  • 2010-05-12
  • By Mihai Bica

BREATHLESS: The French Legrand is celebrating an impressive musical career spanning 50 years.

VILNIUS - It seems like there is never enough said about a man who starts his musical career at the age of 20, and all he does for the rest of his life is to perfect his passion and talent. The French decided that words are not to be used for describing such a talent, and chose instead to dedicate an entire year to this amazing person. And so it is that if you happen to be in France in 2010, you will surely find that this is the year of Michel Legrand; or to put it in other words, this is the celebration of a career that is already in its 50th year.

Vilnius, in its turn, has decided to invite the great artist to perform along with the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, in what promises to be one of the best evenings of this year in the Lithuanian capital. It is not the first time when this orchestra will bring its music to the city, but it is for sure one of those key memorable moments when two great forces combine to create something that leaves the audience breathless. The French artist has been seen on stage before, with orchestras from Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Buffalo, Denver, New Orleans, Montreal and Vancouver. The association with many American names is not accidental, as fame on the continent across the Atlantic has been a constant for Legrand since the 1960s, mostly because of the magic wand that he has used to conduct and compose some of the best soundtracks in motion picture history.

With over 100 albums, and artists like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Sting performing his songs, Michel Legrand has a lot of things to be proud of. Part of that is, for sure, his wife, Catherine Michel, a harpist who will perform alongside her husband in the upcoming event in Vilnius. Other than his spouse, Legrand’s collaborations include such names as Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Barbara Streisand and Liza Minnelli. When he is asked what he does, the range of choices is as wide as can be: composer, jazz and classical pianist, conductor and arranger or even actor and director of movies. This helps to explain the 3 Oscars he has won, and another 6 nominations for the Academy Award, and the 3 nominations for the Grammy, and the Golden Globe that he won in 1969 for the soundtrack of “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

Being almost 80 years old, Michel Legrand is as fresh and ready for the stage as he could be; and it is no wonder that he can manage to do so if one takes a look at his prodigious beginning, when at 20 years old he started his own orchestra and composing music, so that at 23, he would release the album “I Love Paris,” one of the best selling instrumental albums. This was all happening still in the ’50s, before the release of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “The Young Girls of Rochefort,” two movies that paved the way for him towards other successes, such as “Best Friends,” “The Summer of ‘42,” James Bond’s “Never Say Never,” and “Yentl,” a movie for which Time Magazine has described the score as being surely one of the most romantic ever.

The Parisian Legrand is not the only one with an impressive past who will perform in Vilnius on May 27; the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra being, in turn, one of the most reputed in the world, playing around the world for decades. With ticket prices ranging from 150-500 litas (32 - 145 euros), the Vilnius Congress Hall promises to be the perfect place for spending the evening of May 27. For two hours, some of the best musicians in the world will be in the same room, playing some of best written compositions.

If you happen to not be in Vilnius on May 27, but if you’ll be around Tallinn or Riga a couple days before, you can still have a good chance to not miss the great performance by these world-known musicians, when they will take the stage at Nokia Concert Hall in Tallinn on May 25 and at Arena Riga on May 26.