France discovers its three Bs

France discovers its three Bs


norman lebrecht

November 27, 2015

Today’s impressive national commemoration of the 130 victims of the Paris terror attacks was dignified by four pieces of music, appropriate to the occasion.

The first was Jacques Brel’s Quand on n’a que lamour, delivered by four popular singers.

Then came the Marsellaise, performed by the orchestra and chorus of the French army. It was given in the beautiful orchestral version by Hector Berlioz, introduced by television commentators as ‘the best known French composer in the world’.

Third was Natalie Dessay singing Perlimpinpin by Barbara.

Last came Verdi’s Va, pensiero – a statement that an attack on France is an attack on European civilisation as a whole.

Amour from Brel, attack from Berlioz, tendresse from Barbara.

France’s three Bs.

hommage national



  • V.Lind says:

    Jacques Brel was Belgian.

  • Anne Raynaud says:

    So what!
    He has always been assimilated French, and anyway Belgium is deeply involved in the attentats.

    • Fred says:

      assimilated French, c’mon, ur must be kidding, he was an assimilated Belgian of Flemish origin, he even sang and recorded in that language, shows how much you know about Brel

    • V.Lind says:

      “…anyway Belgium is deeply involved in the attentats.”

      As such, and also because of the wonderful appropriateness of the song, more than a suitable piece for inclusion in this moving ceremony. But Mr. Lebrecht declared Brel one of “France’s Three B’s.” That just is not true.

      Accuracy is simply not a feature of this blog lately.


    Unspeakably moving throughout – with a performance of amazing intensity and commitment from Dessay, out of tune perhaps but her soul on fire

  • Michael Redmond says:

    “Hector Berlioz, introduced by television commentators as ‘the best known French composer in the world.” I was struck by this. Berlioz, “better known” than Bizet, Debussy or Ravel?

  • yifu says:

    Perlimpinpin is the correct name of Barbara’s song. It comes from an expression ‘la poudre de Perlimpinpin’ ( fairy powder or crank medecine ..)

  • debussyste says:

    Dessay made me cry. This song by Barbara was a great choice given what happened.

    I think Ravel is the best known french composer but I haven’t any proof of that.