This is the third Naxos volume Fenwick
Smith and Sally Pinkas have recorded of Gaubert’s flute music.
The previous volumes have been reviewed on this site and contain
a good deal of the biographical detail necessary to acquaint
one with the life of the composer, so I’ll stick to the music.
As mentioned in these reviews, the shadow of Debussy looms heavily
over these works, which is not necessarily a negative dependence.
The opening strains of Soir sur la plaine of the Deux
esquisses that open this disc practically flash a neon sign
pointing to Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune. After
this, the piece opens up to a beautifully expressive theme narrated
by the flute and supported by the piano.
The works here aren’t as lushly lovely
as those in Volume 1 of this series but are pleasant nonetheless.
The opening Deux Esquisses fit well into the infatuation
that Europe had at the time with the
East, with the heavily romanticised versions of Oriental and
Middle Eastern melodies and tonalities.
The following Nocturne et Allegro
brings us back from faraway lands and begins with a gorgeous
introduction in the flute’s lower register, before moving into
a more proclamatory range. The balance between Pinkas and Smith
is precise and wonderfully well-maintained. The sound is soothing
and less brassy than, for example, that on Cantilena with Laurel
Zucker, which I reviewed earlier (see review).
The following Sicilienne is a short, flowing
piece in triple meter that has an element, perhaps, of Brahms
in his lighter moments, serving as an interlude of sorts before
the longer Romance of 1905, which extends itself gracefully,
moving without effort through its motivic material.
The second Romance, composed in
1908 is a much shorter statement, with not nearly the length
of span that the earlier piece has but certainly has its appeal.
Rather than the larger statement that the earlier Romance
was, this is a pleasant salon work that nevertheless contains
substance — the development section around 2:00
shows that this is more than a mere off-the-cuff piece.
Of the remaining works, the Fantaisie
has special appeal. Again, the soundworld is that of Debussy
— Afternoon of a Faun haunts this piece as it does the
first work on this disc. The material develops into something
more than pastiche, though, with a heartfelt middle section,
played beautifully and with languid restraint by Smith and Pinkas.
What may show to be of greatest interest
to many are the transcriptions of works of other composers for
flute and piano. Some of them seem a touch on the utilitarian
side, such as the first included here, a transcription from
Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Boccherini’s minuet from the
Quintet in E receives a pleasant treatment as the third of the
transcriptions included here. Little information regarding
these transcriptions is included in the liner-notes, but these
remain lovely additions to flute repertoire of composers who,
in Gaubert’s time, languished in obscurity.
This third disc continues
the excellent standard of recording that the earlier volumes
set. Fans of Romantic era flute music need not hesitate to
add this disc to their collections, and opera fans might also
risk a gamble regarding the transcriptions, which have their
world premiere recording here.
see also Review
by Jonathan Woolf
Links to reviews of previous discs in this