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Philippe GAUBERT (1879-1941)

Complete Works for Flute: Vol. 3
Deux esquisses [6:38]
Nocturne et allegro scherzando [5:38]
Sicilienne [2:56]
Romance [7:07]
Transcriptions (1910) [31:05] (Ronance: Assez lent [(1908) [3:44]; Fantaisie [6:49]; Sur l’eau [3:28]; Ballade [6:17]; Berceuse [3:30])
Fenwick Smith (flute)
Sally Pinkas (piano)
rec. Sonic Temple, Roslindale, Massachusetts, 11 April 2003; 6, 25 January 2005
NAXOS 8.557307 [77:13] 




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. 

David Blomenberg

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf

Links to reviews of previous discs in this series:

Volume 1
Volume 2

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