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The Orchestra of Paul Durand feat. Jean​-​Jacques Perrey - La Vache et le Prisonnier main theme (excerpt)

from Jean​-​Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline by Jean-Jacques Perrey

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Sometimes translated as The Cow and I, but literally meaning The Cow and the Prisoner, La Vache et le Prisonnier was the box office success of 1959 in France and has proved an enduring popular favourite. It starred Fernandel, the biggest comic actor in French cinema for many decades, opposite a delightfully headstrong dairy cow named Margueritte.

Based on Jacques Antoine's novel Une histoire vraie, the film follows Charles Bailly (Fernandel), a prisoner of war on a German farm, as he attempts to escape back to his native France using Margueritte as a disguise, diversion and source of dairy sustenance.

The memorable theme was composed by Paul Durand, who was already a veteran of the French music industry by the time he came to work on La Vache et le Prisonnier, having variously filled the roles of organist in his local church, piano player in Paris cabarets, conductor of symphony orchestras for radio, and composer/conductor for a number of feature films.

Durand selected Jean-Jacques Perrey, 20 years his junior, but already the principal exponent of the Ondioline, to carry the delicate, haunting melody that whistles like the wind through the German landscapes Bailly and his cow companion traverse throughout the film.

A vocal version of the theme entitled ‘Les mains du vent’ (‘The Hands of the Wind’) was arranged by Durand for Jacqueline François, a vocalist with whom he had enjoyed earlier pop success, but unfortunately La Vache et le Prisonnier’s original score has never been commercially released.

Excerpted here to focus on Perrey’s tender Ondioline performance, Durand’s timeless melody marks the first time the instrument was used in a film score.


from Jean​-​Jacques Perrey et son Ondioline, track released January 1, 1959
Paul Durand - composer, conductor
Jean-Jacques Perrey - Ondioline


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Jean-Jacques Perrey Switzerland

Jean-Jacques Perrey (1929-2016) was an alternative pop visionary, pioneer of rhythmic tape-edit sampling techniques, and virtuoso of the rare French electronic musical instrument, the Ondioline.

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