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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

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Flute Recital: Belle Époque
Georges HUË (1858-1948) Fantasie (1913); Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Morceau de Concours (1898); Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895) Suite de Trois Morceaux (1890); Georges ENESCU (1881-1955) Cantabile et Presto (1904); Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937) Suite for Flute and Piano Op 34(1889); Claude DEBUSSY (1864-1918) Le Petit Nègre (1909) and Beau Soir (1880); Francois BORNE (arrangement with additions by Marina Piccinini) Fantasie brillante on Bizet’s Carmen (1900)
Marina Piccinini (flute)
Anne Epperson, (piano)
Recorded at the New York Academy of Arts and Letters January 2000 DDD
CLAVES CD 50-2009 [62.36]
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The period known as the "Belle Époque" can be roughly drawn from the 1880s up to the First World War, when fashion and, I suppose, ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ all contributed to blowing it away. Not only that but the ‘époque’ is a phase in purely French culture (although Enescu may seem slightly out of place in this context) and interestingly, it was Paris that saw the premiere of ‘Le sacre’. Anyway, it was composers like Godard and Fauré who seem to sum up the very best of the period. However, more importantly, this is a performer’s CD. Although we are not told directly I suspect that Marina Piccinini has chosen seven of her favourite compositions from this period.

As all flautists know the Flute repertoire that practically dies out after Mozart [and he didn’t like the instrument that much either] is eventually rescued by this generation of French composers. Faure for example wrote a considerable amount for the instrument as any young player can testify. I suspect therefore that Miss Piccinini has been born and bred on this music or material very much like it and she thrives on it, enjoying every nuance.

She also brings some more unusual pieces out for an airing and convinces us that they do not merit the fate of forever gathering dust. For example, the disc opens with a work by the rarely encountered George Huë. This comes from the very end of our era, 1913, but the piece could have been written ten years or so earlier. It has a debt to Debussy but also a few phrases which point forward to Satie.

The booklet is attractive and interestingly written by David Wright. It is adorned with seven black and white photographs, including ones of the performers and of four of the composers, one of which is the famous organ composer Charles-Marie Widor. His four movement ‘Suite’, at almost eighteen minutes, is the longest work on the disc and although rather staid, as his photo implies, typefies the ease and grace of most of the music of this period.

I can’t say that I have heard of François Borne before. His is one of many ‘Carmen Fantasies’ and makes an excellent finale to the disc. It is a terrific virtuoso showpiece, which has been added to by Marina Piccinini with "some fantastic variations and flourishes of her own".

Anne Epperson is an entirely accomplished and delightful accompanist who is never cowed and bent by some stunning flute playing. She is not only highly sensitive to the subtleties of French repertoire herself but has an ideal touch, aided and abetted by an excellently balanced recording.

The flute is a notorious difficult instrument to play when sudden or wide dynamic contrasts are needed, which is probably why the earlier Romantic composers moved away from it. However the booklet profile on Piccinini quite rightly comments that she has a "tremendous range of tone colours … with her lyric expressiveness she phrases and colours the sound as naturally as a singer". Certainly I agree that her tone is an absolute joy and her phrasing beautiful. All this is coupled with her virtuosity. To illustrate this I have chosen three tracks.

The first is the whole of Fauré’s gorgeous ‘Morceau’ (track 2) in which the composer, as ever, is wonderful at utilising the lower register, then Enescu’s early ‘Cantabile and Presto’ (track 6) which needs both expressive playing, and later a lighter touch with its double tonguing and fast passage work in the lower register. And I can’t resist the ‘Carmen’ Fantasy’ (track 13) beginning at c.5.39 through to the end. Very fine playing by both performers and a most enjoyable CD. In fact the word which keeps coming to mind is ‘delightful’.


Gary Higginson



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track details:
CDTnº1 - G. HUE
Fantaisie
CDTnº2 - G. FAURE
Morceau de Concours
CDTnº3 - B. GODARD
Suite de Trois Morceaux Op.116
CDTnº4 - B. GODARD
Suite de Trois Morceaux Op.116
CDTnº5 - B. GODARD
Suite de Trois Morceaux Op.116
CDTnº6 - G. ENESCU
Cantabile et Presto
CDTnº7 - C-M. WIDOR
Suite for Flute and Piano Op.34
CDTnº8 - C-M. WIDOR
Suite for Flute and Piano Op.34
CDTnº9 - C-M. WIDOR
Suite for Flute and Piano Op.34
CDTnº10 - C-M. WIDOR
Suite for Flute and Piano Op.34
CDTnº11 - C. DEBUSSY
Le Petit Negre
CDTnº12 - C. DEBUSSY
Beau Soir
CDTnº13 - F. BORNE
Fantaisie Brilliante on 'Carmen' arr. Piccinini




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