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Georges Auric (1899-1983) - French yet very English

Georges Auric: The Film Music of Georges Auric - album cover As a young musician, Auric became friends with Erik Satie, he studied under D'Indy and attended the Paris Conservatory. He became a member of the group known as "Les Six" including Milhaud, Poulenc, Honegger, Tailleferre and Durey. He was a music critic for a time and of course a composer. His early works were largely in a classical vein, for concert performances, opera and ballet. His membership of Lex Six brought him into contact with the writer Jean Cocteau (at that time a poet and playwright) and that relationship led to writing settings of poetry and other texts as songs and musicals. When Cocteau turned to film making, it was natural that Auric would also turn to film music.

Georges Auric: The Film Music of Georges Auric - album cover He wrote soundtracks for a large number of French films before finding work across the Channel which quickly led to his becoming the resident composer for the series of films commonly known as the "Ealing Comedies" after the studio which produced them. Since these films are widely known and fondly remembered among English speakers, the name of Auric is most closely associated with these films and this is why we have dubbed Auric "French yet very English". These films included the likes of "Passport to Pimlico", "The Lavender Hill Mob" and "The Titfield Thunderbolt" starring actors like Stanley Holloway, Alec Guinness and Joan Greenwood. By a strange coincidence, two of these films have a French connection - in "Passport to Pimlico" legal documents show that a street in London is part of Burgundy, and in "The Lavender Hill Mob" there is a dizzy scene on the Eiffel Tower. With "Moulin Rouge", Auric had the opportunity to portray his native country in an English-language film, and also wrote the successful song for this movie "Where is your Heart".

Georges Auric: Beauty and the Beast - soundtrack album cover Auric's style is very much in the classical tradition, his formal musical education being quite evident, and the orchestration frequently transparent using only a handful of instruments. He was particularly adept at spanning the entire breadth of a symphony orchestra in the space of a minutes using combinations of only 2 or 3 instruments at a time. While his comedy scores are necessarily lighter in nature like Johann Strauss or Offenbach, he also created some darker more complex scores perhaps nearer to Richard Strauss or Stravinsky in feel, such as for the horror movie Dead of Night. Auric was to become director of the Paris Opera and also chairman of SACEM the French Music Copyright Society.

Films by Georges Auric:

  • The Blood of a Poet - for Jean Cocteau
  • Captain Blood
  • Monsieur la Souris
  • La Belle et la Bête - another film score for Jean Cocteau, this film has recently been re-imaged with new music and sung dialogue by Philip Glass
  • Caesar and Cleopatra - much of this is quite ethereal music compared with other movies set in Roman times
  • Dead of Night - a powerful contrast to the comedy films
  • Hue and Cry - has a rollicking overture reminiscent of the Looney Toons intro
  • It Always Rains on Sunday - the music is positively dripping in places!
  • The Queen of Spades
  • Goodbye Again (or "Aimez-vous Brahms?") - romantic movie with some light band music and a main theme borrowed from Brahms' 3rd Symphony
  • Passport to Pimlico - light and classical
  • The Galloping Major
  • The Lavender Hill Mob - not unlike Elgar or Mahler at times
  • Moulin Rouge - very music hall and includes the waltzing theme song, almost 50 years before the recent version of Moulin Rouge
  • Roman Holiday - some regal sections with Audrey Hepburn in Princess mode, but mostly light and fun music around the city of Rome
  • The Wages of Fear
  • The Titfield Thunderbolt - jolly with a recurring trumpet motto
  • Father Brown - quasi-religious in places, yet gentle and with humour
  • The Good Die Young
  • Les Aventures de Till l'Espiegel - not the Richard Strauss tone poem
  • Georges Auric: The Classic Film Music of Georges Auric, Volume 3 - soundtrack album cover
  • The Mystery of Picasso
  • Bonjour Tristesse
  • Heaven Knows, Mr. Alison
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1957)
  • Dangerous Exile
  • S.O.S. Pacific
  • The Innocents - solo soprano voice gently underlining the title
  • The Mind Benders
  • The Christmas Tree
  • La Grande Vadrouille - a popular war comedy also known as "Don't Look Now - We're Being Shot at", for director Gerard Oury

Georges Auric - Recommendations:

Here is a selection of albums with music and film music by Georges Auric, including a couple of albums with collected music by "Les Six". Note that the title track of "The Ladykillers: Those Glorious Ealing Films" was scored by Tristram Cary though Auric scored most of the rest.