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Jeanne Baxtresser A Collection of My Favorites
Claude DEBUSSY (1862–1918)
1. Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faun [10:03]
Béla BARTÓK  (1881–1945)
Suite paysanne hongroise (arranged for flute by Paul Arma):
2. Chants populaires tristes [6:01]
3. Vieilles danses [6:54]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810–1849)
4. Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. Posth. (transcribed for flute by Julius Baker) [4:29]
Friedrich KUHLAU (1786–1832)
5. Trio, Op. 119: Movement III [5:46]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873–1943)
6. Daisies, Op. 38 No. 3 (arranged for violin by Jascha Heifetz; transcribed for flute by Jeanne Baxtresser) [2:34]
Samuel BARBER (1910–1981)
7. Canzone, Op. 38a [4:06]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714–1788)
8. Concerto for Flute in D minor, Wq. 22: III. Allegro di molto [6:52]
George GERSHWIN (1898–1937)
9. Someone to Watch Over Me [3:47]
10. Promenade [2:37]
Claude BOLLING (b. 1930)
Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio:
11. Baroque and Blue [5:17]
12. Sentimentale [7:53]
13. Veloce [3:50]
Henry COWELL (1897–1965)
14. Two Bits [4:23]
Jeanne Baxtresser (flute)
Andrew Davis (piano)(1–7), Toronto Chamber Orchestra/Andrew Davis (8), Julius Baker (flute), Toronto Ragtime Ensemble/Doug Riley (9), Toronto Ragtime Ensemble/Doug Riley (10), Eric Robertson Trio (11–13), Margaret Baxtresser (piano)(14).
rec. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Church of Saint Timothy, June 1987 (1 – 7); Grace Church On-The-Hill, May 1986 (8), 1996 (9 – 13). rec. live in concert, June 1994 (14)
MSR CLASSICS MS 1114 [74:32]

Jeanne Baxtresser was principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic for fifteen years but before that she held the same position in the Toronto Symphony. I heard her in that capacity during the orchestra’s guest appearance at the Royal Festival Hall in March 1983, when she was the soloist in C P E Bach’s Flute Concerto in D minor, from which she plays the last movement on this disc, recorded a few years later. I was deeply impressed by her playing then and hearing that music again after so many years was a pleasant experience. This concerto, from 1747, is better known in a harpsichord version but the flute version, arranged by Kurt Redel, may well be the earliest. The finale is a rousing virtuoso piece with springy rhythms and playing of the kind that gives the impression of the soloist never touching the floor. Intending purchasers should give it a listen and I am sure they will be hooked. The whole programme is a joy from beginning to end and shows Ms Baxtresser’s prowess in a diversity of styles.

What most of all characterises her playing is balance and aristocracy, which doesn’t exclude intensity and emotion. On the first seven tracks she is partnered by Andrew Davis who was principal conductor of the Toronto Symphony at the time and who, besides being one of his generation’s leading conductors was also was a brilliant pianist and organist! The interplay between these two full-blood musicians is admirable, from the coolness of Debussy’s faun and the relaxed intimate Chopin Nocturne via the ravishingly beautiful trio movement by Kuhlau (“the Beethoven of the flute” as Ms Baxtresser puts it) to the atmospheric Canzona by Samuel Barber – one of his most played chamber music pieces. It was written in 1959, originally entitled Elegy. Three years later he orchestrated it as the slow movement to his Piano Concerto, Op. 38. It was published under its present title as Op. 38b. It is played softly and inwardly. Kuhlau’s trio was originally written for two flutes and piano but also published in two other versions: for flute, violin and piano, and for flute, cello and piano. On this recording we hear it with the cello part transcribed for bassoon by Jeanne Baxtresser’s husband David Carroll, who also plays it, although he is un-credited in the booklet. It is a pity there wasn’t room for the whole trio – I happen to have it on another compilation.

Bartok’s Suite paysanne hongroise is a free adaptation of his early Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs, and they are thrilling, often surprising in their irregular rhythms and the imitation of folk music instruments. The arrangement for flute and piano are by a pupil of Bartók’s, Paul Anna, who has been very free in his treatment of the music, skipping movements and changing textures to suit the flute. Since Bartók’s composition is also an adaptation this matters very little; what counts is the result and this is certainly music to return to – and Jeanne Baxtresser plays it with her customary elegance and also some rustic charm –especially in the Vieilles danses. The second ‘piece’ of the Chants populaires has a distinct blues-feeling.

Towards the end of the recital we move over to what could be labelled ‘cross-over music’ and here she is joined by her one-time teacher, the legendary Julius Baker, in a gently rocking version of Someone to Watch Over Me, one of Gershwin’s most arresting melodies. On her own she plays the little Promenade which was posthumously published in 1960 and since then has become quite popular. Michael Tilson Thomas did it on a CBS record a decade and a half ago. The flute, set against the ragtime ensemble, gives it an even airier touch. Jeanne Baxtresser then shows her catholic taste and broad adaptability in Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio, which starts as a duet for flute and piano in a quasi-baroque style before the bass and drums enter and swing it. Then the movement alternates between the two styles. An ingenious composition. The slow second movement starts as a duet, very beautiful and atmospheric and it then develop into a soft jazz ballad, while the last movement is a flowing, bluesy, half-minimalist ride in a fast machine. Excellent musicians!

As an encore Baxtresser together with her pianist mother play Two Bits, folk music-inspired pieces by Henry Cowell who had a special relation to Margaret Baxtresser since he composed a piece for her New York debut. This is a live recording and the applause at the end is well deserved and could just as well concern the whole programme. It is refreshing to have a collection of favourites that goes beyond the obvious lollipops and shows that there is so much more or less neglected music which is just as appealing. Laurie Shulman’s liner notes give much valuable background information to the music, which further heightens the value of this lovely recital.

Göran Forsling


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