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French Flute Music
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Sonata for flute and piano (1957) [11:51]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Le Merle Noir (1951) [5:42]
Pierre SANCAN (b. 1916)
Sonatine (1946) [9:08]
André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
Chant de Linos (1944) [10:25]
Henri DUTILLEUX (b.1916)
Sonatine (1942) [9:30]
Pierre BOULEZ (b.1925)
Sonatine (1946) [12:58]
Patrick Gallois (flute), Lydia Wong (piano)
rec. The Country Day School, King City, Ontario, June 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557328 [59:35]


This disc of French flute music spans a mere 15 years (1942-1957) but covers a lot of ground. The opening sonata by Poulenc is the latest and much the best known work but sounds as if it were written much earlier than the Boulez in particular. Debussy’s influence is at its strongest here and Poulenc’s stream of atmospheric tunes is beautifully realized by Gallois and Wong. The second movement (of three) cantilena is especially enchanting, evoking just the right degree of poignancy.

Messiaen’s Le Merle Noir (The Blackbird) was a test piece written for the Paris Conservatoire and reflects his long time fascination (and use of) bird song. It predates his Catalogue d’oiseaux for solo piano by a few years but, despite its relative brevity, is in the same mould. Listening to this had me wondering why he chose the piano rather than the flute for his catalogue!

Pierre Sancan is the least familiar name here. He was a professor at the Paris Conservatoire who composed quite extensively. His Sonatine was also a test piece but is highly attractive and harks back to Ravel. Jolivet’s Chant de Linos exists in two versions (the other has the flute accompanied by string trio and harp). In common with the Sancan Sonatine, it was dedicated to the flautist Gaston Crunelle. This is a threnody in which the lament is broken by wild outbursts and it has the darkest prevailing mood of any piece on the disc.

Two more Sonatines to finish. Dutilleux’s was also a test piece and dedicated to Crunelle, and is a relatively early work. Nevertheless it is the work of an individual voice, and the closing section marked Animé is particularly striking. Boulez’s Sonatine was amongst his first published works and the aural influence of Messiaen is strong although the work is fundamentally a product of serialism. The composer has explained that his use of melodic cells represented “organized delirium”. This is the longest and most challenging work on the disc and it provides a fitting conclusion.

Patrick Gallois studied at the Paris Conservatoire under Jean-Pierre Rampal and is well-known both as a flautist and conductor. He sounds totally at home in this repertoire and is very well supported by the Canadian pianist Lydia Wong. The recorded sound is most natural and the issue is well-documented.

Patrick C Waller

see also Review by Colin Clarke




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