Music in Movies

Maigret George Simenon's famous literary character, Inspector Jules Maigret, or just plain "Maigret" to his fans, featured in 75 novels and 26 stories written between 1931 and 1972. The French detective has featured in numerous cinematic adaptations most famously starring Jean Gabin, although at least twenty-five actors have played France's most famous policeman next to Inspector Clouseau. However, the Simenon stories have always seemed more suitable for television and have been used as the basis of numerous television series.

One of the UK's favourites (and apparently one of the author's favourites) was Rupert Davis' portrayal in 51 of the BBC's 52 episode series screened between 1960 and 1963 and accompanied by Ron Grainer's evocative, archetypal French accordion music. While Maigret has only briefly returned to British screens in the early 1990s, played Michael Gambon, a Maigret television series has been a virtually continuous feature of French television since 1965.

Until 1990 the pipe-smoking Inspector was played by Jean Richard (who was also the manager of the famous Jean Richard Circus), but he was succeeded in 1991 by Bruno Cremer, for a new series. This new French series also heralded a new approach to the accompanying music with the appointment of Laurent Petitgirard, a composer with a wide ranging classical background which includes operas, symphonic poems, chamber music as well as more than thirty years in film and television music. His music for Maigret is deliciously intense with just a touch of intriguing mystery.

The album has thirteen cues featuring varied and interesting music from some of the fifty episodes completed to date. The first cue introduces both the composer's main Maigret theme and the rather hesitant and intimate mood that percolates through the album. The lovely haunting theme is used sparingly, and seems to be reserved for those moments of greatest detective stress. In contrast to Ron Grainer's approach, Laurent Petitgirard makes almost no overt musical concessions to the French setting, after all Bruno Cremer is a Frenchman speaking French and needs little scene setting, while Rupert Davis was a Welshman, speaking English albeit with a light French accent! Having said that the score occasionally breaks this rule briefly with a judicious, but highly effective use of accordion, but only to emphasise the theme and create a foil for the strings. The solo piano figures strongly in many of the cues, generating an intimate and intricate, but restrained atmosphere that is always bordering on the classical. The music has depth and feeling that is rarely found in television scores. The last cue is described as a symphonic suite, which accurately reflects a gorgeous twenty-two minute track built loosely around the main theme, but exploring moods and orchestral textures that are captivating and thoroughly enjoyable.

Laurent Petitgirard's music is ideal for the pondering, pipe-sucking Maigret: thoughtful, serious with just the odd moments of simple clarity. A brains rather than brawn score whose delightful characteristics become more apparent with each play. One bizarre observation: while Belgium's greatest detective, Poirot, was created by an Englishwoman, Maigret, France's greatest detective, was created by a Belgian.
Reviewed by: Andrew Keech

Past Film Score Daily Articles

Film Score Monthly Home Page
© 1997-2005 Lukas Kendall. All rights reserved.

Maigret *** 1/2

Play Time 5785572
14 tracks - 55:02

Georges Simenon's Maigret is one of the great literary detectives, standing next to Poirot, Sherlock Holmes and many others. There have been a multitude of adaptations of these novels and over the past decade or so, French TV has produced many telefilms featuring the detective played by Bruno Cremer.

Laurent Petitgirard has provided the music for most of these films, and now fans of the series have the pleasure of revisiting the music on a marvelous disc that collects themes from several of them. Most of Petitgirard's work has been in television (with an occasional film to his credit), so he may be somewhat unfamiliar to soundtrack fans. On the other hand, he is an accomplished musician and composer who has released a recording of his Violin Concerto and his Cello Concerto. For this disc, he has pulled together performances from three different orchestras (France, Monte Carlo and Prague) to provide a survey of his work from Maigret, beginning from its inaugural "episode" in 1991.

The opening "Generique" is instantly likable and appropriately spans the kind of mystery and humor that's an integral part of the genre of detective fiction and film. The inclusion of a accordion/bandoneon adds character to each track. The music is an intriguing mixture of musical influences with strong roots in French impressionism, so if you enjoy that style of music this may become a favorite. Many tracks have a hint of a dark side mixed in with a delightful playful quality. The music definitely captures this great character of Maigret. After a series of brief tracks from various Maigret episodes, the disc concludes with an extensive symphonic suite of over 20 minutes.

The disc is attractively packaged in a cardboard case that foldouts for notes by the composer. The disc is available through FGL music at

L'Express 16 juin 2004

Grand écrin pour petit écran

Le plus incroyable dans cette compilation des partitions de la série MAIGRET version Bruno Crémer, c'est le pouvoir de la musique composée par Laurent Petitgirard à créer un univers riche et sombre, là où le simple nom du personnage de Simenon tendrait plutôt à évoquer un esprit débonnaire habitué au jambon-beurre de sous-préfecture. Car il faut reconnaître à Petitgirard, compositeur catalogué "sérieux" (alors qu'on oublierait QUASIMODO DELL' PARIS ou pour les trentenaires téléphiles la formidable rengaine des 400 COUPS DE VIRGINIE) une capacité à ennoblir des téléfilms de prime time. Certes, la prestation de Bruno Crémer est à porter à ce crédit et la plupart des réalisateurs oeuvrant sur la série viennent du grand écran (Pierre Granier-Deferre, Christian De Chalonge, Laurent Heynemann, etc.), mais Petitgirard trouve un ton et une couleur qui non contents d'élever musicalement une atmosphère provinciale parfois pesante, la fait parfois glisser vers le fantastique et la noirceur absolue. En ce sens, Ravel n'est peut-être pas loin et prend parfois la suite de l'harmonica de Jean Wiener et son mythique thème de TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI.

Loin de toute redondance, les multiples reprises du thème saluent plutôt des orchestrations précises et judicieuses, comme le célesta évoquant l'enfance de "Maigret à l'école". Mais la cerise du gâteau, c'est la suite symphonique de 22 minutes "Les Brumes de Maigret", enregistrée avec l'Orchestre Philarmonique de Monte-Carlo. Dès les premières secondes, la démarche du commissaire est là. Petitgirard signe un poème symphonique pour une intrigue d'arrière-salle et de porte cochère. Ce pourrait être décalé, c'est tout simplement formidable. A tous ceux qui ne connaissent que trop peu l'auteur d'ASPHALTE, de ROSEBUD ou de LACENAIRE, un album vivement conseillé.
Gérard Dastugue

Retour à la page précédente