> Paul Le Flem - La Magicienne de la Mer [HC]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Paul LE FLEM (1881 – 1984)
Deux Interludes de La Magicienne de la Mer (1947)
Fantiasie pour piano et orchestre (1911)
Symphony No.1 in A major (1906/8)
Marie-Catherine Girod (piano); Orchestre de Bretagne; Claude Schnitzler
Recorded: (live) Radio France, Rennes, October 1993
TIMPANI 1C1021 [69:08]
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Paul Le Flem enjoyed a long and busy life, teaching, adjudicating, conducting choirs and – most importantly – composing a large number of substantial works of which the present release offers a well-planned selection. The three works here, recorded in reverse chronological order, span some forty years of his long creative life.

The earliest work is the grand Symphony No.1 in A major completed in 1908. Not surprisingly, Franck’s shadow still looms large over this ambitious, substantial piece. It is in four movements. The first movement opens with a slow introduction characterised by a beautiful theme (first on cor anglais and then on oboe) which will re-appear later in varied statements all through the symphony, leading into the main Allegro. This is followed by an atmospheric, meditative Lent based on a variant of the oboe theme from the first movement. The music builds up towards two impressive climaxes before ending, as it began, in pensive twilight. Curiously enough, the Scherzo is the longest and most developed movement of the symphony. Its long central Trio is almost a tone poem evoking the elves and fairies of the Breton legends. The symphony ends with a lively, dance-like Rondo in which some of the earlier thematic material is briefly restated, whereas the overall mood is that of a rustic dance full of earthy energy. Le Flem was a Breton at heart, and his music often conjures up colourful, contrasted seascapes and landscapes of his beloved Brittany. The First Symphony, for all its contrapuntal and orchestral skills, is an impressive evocation of Brittany.

The Fantaisie pour piano et orchestre, completed in 1911 and dedicated to fellow-Breton Guy Ropartz, is a near-cousin to Fauré’s or Koechlin’s similarly titled works, and much of its time. It roughly adheres to the theme-and-variations pattern as Franck’s Variations symphoniques or the aforementioned works by Fauré and Koechlin. The music, for all its technical sophistication, again paints colourful landscapes.

Le Flem’s long life brought him in contact with most recent musical developments of his time, and his music progressively adopted some ‘modern’ techniques and was not untouched by atonality, as is quite clear in the Interludes de "La Magicienne de la Mer" completed in 1947. La Magicienne de la Mer is a short opera in three tableaux inspired by the legend of Ys which is evoked in the central panel La Nuit de Légende. The two interludes actually draw on four orchestral sections from the opera. So, Interlude 1 is based on the dodecaphonic monody associated with Dahut, the Magician, leading into some fantastic cortege. Interlude 2 evokes the night orgy which ended with the flooding of Ys. The music is thus tempestuous, voluptuous and menacing in turn. The magically scored final section of Interlude 2 summons the vision of Ys rising from the sea through the morning mist. This is beautifully evocative music which makes one want to hear the whole opera and, who knows? to have it on record some time.

This very fine release usefully complements the earlier Le Flem CD (MARCO POLO 8.223655, also available as NAXOS 8.555981) which includes several orchestral works as well as the Fourth Symphony of 1972. Performances are excellent, though the string section of the Orchestre de Bretagne sounds a bit under-nourished. The live recording is quite good though a bit on the dry side, maybe a question of acoustics. Nevertheless, this CD should appeal to all those interested in early 20th Century French music which is still underrated, too little heard and recorded though it has many riches to offer.

Hubert Culot



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2 Interludes from La Magicienne de la Mer

L'Appel de Dahut

Ys Engloutie Renait dans le Reve

Fantaisie pour Piano et Orchestre

Symphony no1 in A Major

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