There is no better source to describe French composer Jean Françaix (pronounced zhahn Frahn-SAY in France,  Frahn-SEX in Belgium) than the affable composer himself.  Here’s how Françaix responded to a request for an autobiographical sketch in 1989, when the composer was in his late 70s:

Jean Francaix was born in 1912, in Le Mans, a city well-known for its 24-hour auto race, but dear to our musician (Jean Françaix) because it contains a magnificent cathedral, the inspiration for his Oratorio Fantastique L’Apocalypse selon Saint-Jean (“The Apocalypse According to Saint John.”)

His family, one hundred percent devoted to music, nurtured his gifts with care, so much so that by age of twelve, he knew all the music from Domenico Scarlatti (whom he adores) to Ravel.
At eighteen years of age, he won the First Prize in Piano from the Paris Conservatory and became a student of Nadia Boulanger..  She instilled in him the sense of form and of the living architecture which identifies the <<Works of Masters.>>

As early as 1932, his Concertino pour piano et orchestre (“Concertino for Piano and Orchestra”) brought him recognition.  The following year, his first two ballets were presented in Monte Carlo.  The  Scuola di Ballo (The Ballet School) was a huge success.  Eight other ballets followed including  Le Roi Nu  (“The Naked King”) directed by Serge Lifar, presented at the Paris Opera, Les Demoiselles de la Nuit (“The Ladies of the Evening”) and La Dame dans la lune, (“The Lady in the Moon”) by Rolland Petit, etc.

Jean Françaix composed music for a dozen films, including Les perles de la couronne, (“The Crown Pearls”); Si Versailles m’était conté (“If I Were Told Versailles’ History”); Napoléon; and Si Paris m’était conté (“If I Were Told Paris’ History”), a film by Sacha Guitry.

He also had two operas produced, La Princesse de Clèves, based on  a work by Madame de La Fayette, and La Main de gloire (“The Glorious Hand”), based on a novel by Gérard de Nerval.

He has composed concerti for every instrument of the  orchestra as well as a great number of compositions for chamber music.  Under the direction of the great Maestros, including Charles Munch and Herbert von Karajan, he has performed his own piano compositions both as a soloist and with his daughter, Claude Françaix.  At the age of 77, he continues to compose without interruption, <<finding resources in his own inspiration>> without fads or snobbery.

Jean Francaix remained active as a composer and a pianist until his death in Paris on Sept. 25, 1997, at the age of 87.
– Translated from the French by Dr. Gino Narboni