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Philippe GAUBERT (1879 Ė 1941)
Madrigal; Trois aquarelles; Divertissement grèc; Soir païen; Tarantelle; Pièce romantique; Médailles antiques; Suite
Fenwick Smith (flute)
Sally Pinkas (piano)
Jayne West (soprano)
Andrew Pearce (cello)
Jacques Zoon (flute)
Ann Hobson Pilot (harp)
John Ferillo (oboe)
Malcolm Lowe (violin)
Rec. Sonic Temple, Roslindale, Massachusetts, 17 Dec 2001; 3-4 Feb 2002; 26 Jan 2003; Seiji Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood, Lenox, Massachusetts, 16 Aug 2001
NAXOS 8.557305 [61.10]


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Between the wars, Gaubert was at the epicentre of French musical life, professor of flute at the Paris Conservatoire and principal conductor of both the Paris Opéra and the Société des Concerts. As a composer, Gaubertís reputation is far less central. An assimilator rather than an innovator, his charming music is redolent of the world of Franck, Ravel and Debussy. As a flautist by training, the flute features heavily in Gaubertís oeuvre and his fourteen works for flute and piano remain some of his best known works.

This disc is promised as Volume 1 of his complete works for flute and piano. For this first volume, flautist Fenwick Smith and pianist Sally Pinkas are joined by a number of other artists to perform a group of Gaubertís flute-centred chamber works. In addition Smith and Pinkas perform two of Gaubertís flute and piano works.

The disc opens with the short Madrigal for flute and piano, an example of one the charming miniatures at which Gaubert excelled. The Trois Aquarelles are the first of Gaubertís trios for flute, cello and piano Ė each movement a delicately etched tone-picture (Par un clair Matin; Soir díautomne; Sérénade). The last movement evokes echoes of the Middle East. Fenwick Smith has an attractive warm tone and Pinkas is a responsive accompanist. Between them they make a fine case for these works, seeming to play them from love. Joined by Andrew Pearce on cello, for the trio, the three of them make a fine ensemble.

The Divertissement Grèc expands on the traditional coupling of flute and harp by adding a second flute. Both flautists (Jacques Zoon and Fenwick Smith) play on wooden flutes, adding to the atmosphere in this lovely little piece. The song, Soir Païen is the only song on the disc. Charmingly sung by Jayne West, it made me wish that more vocal works had been included.

The Tarantelle for flute, oboe and piano, was Gaubertís first published piece and it is dedicated to Gaubertís flute professor, Paul Taffanel. For this trio, Smith and Pinkas are joined by the oboe of John Ferrillo.

Another trio, for flute, violin and piano, follows. Médailles Antiques comprises a pair of neo-classically inspired tone pictures (Nymphes à la fontaine and Danses) with some very Ravel-inspired moments. The final piece on the disc is the most substantial: the Suite for flute and piano. The four movements of this work mix neo-classical images with further exotic, middle-eastern moments.

These works are all captivatingly charming and are delightfully played by Smith, Pinkas and their friends. No-one would claim Gaubert for a lost genius of French music, but his undoubtedly civilised talent is work exploring. I cannot help feeling though, that if this disc had been called Soirs Païens Ė Romantic chamber music by Philippe Gaubert rather than the prosaic ĎComplete Works for Flute Ė Ií, it might have tempted more people to explore Gaubertís world.

Robert Hugill

see also review by Colin Touchin


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