With the follow-up to his soundtrack for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Michel Legrand puts a sophisticated and subtle spin on another of Jacques Demy's unabashed tributes to the golden age of MGM musicals. Although not as lyrical or rich as its predecessor, The Young Girls of Rochefort manages to provide more thrills as Legrand's prevalent jazz arrangements effectively mirror Demy's sunny excavation of the town of Rochefort; gone are the melancholy themes of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg's lost love and cloudy skies in favor of a splashy tone better suited to The Young Girls of Rochefort's innocuous romance and outdoor production numbers. Legrand is even able to match Demy's nostalgic postwar leanings as he successfully evokes and melds two musical staples of the era--big band swing and string laden vocal numbers. Throughout the score, in fact, Legrand blends jazz, strings and vocals into seamless and compact pieces; "Le Pont Transbordeur"'s swirling strings envelope and whisk a jazz piano trio into double time with no compromise to the swinging tempo and on "Arrive de Comionneurs," a seeming cacophony of dense reeds, muscular brass, layered vocal harmonies and dizzying string passages merge harmoniously under the taut arrangement. (Legrand would take this musical synthesis to even greater heights a few years later on his soundtrack to The Thomas Crown Affair) His contrasting knack for understatement is also well represented here by the yearningly plaintive "Chanson de Maxence," the melody of which becomes a major motif for longing throughout the score. Michel Legrand offers up a variety of pleasures on The Young Girls of Rochefort--namely great songs--and in the process, elegantly brings Jacques Demy's musical to life. ~ Stephen Cook
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