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Hommage à Poulenc - Music for flute and piano
Paul TAFFANEL (1844-1908)
Andante Pastoral (1907) [3:33]
Scherzettino [1:55]
Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)
Sonate op.52 (1913) [11 :58]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Sonate (1957) [11:53]
Bart VISMAN (b.1962)
Mélodie (2004) [7:42]
Henri DUTILLEUX (b.1916)
Sonatine (1943) [9:05]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Danse de la chèvre (1921) [3:15]
Jan BUS (b.1961)
Cherchez l’Orange (2003) [9:54]
Germaine TAILLEFERRE (1892-1983)
Forlane (1972) [3:00]
Dick KATTENBURG (1919-1944)
Sonate Op.5 (1937) [10:17]
Abbie de Quant (flute)
Elizabeth van Malde (piano)
rec. July 2006, Toonzaal, ’s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

The idea for putting together a programme in homage to Francis Poulenc came to Abbie de Quant as a result of the realisation that she had been playing the Poulenc Sonate for forty years, since 1966. She deliberately avoided the easier option of basing a programme around the ‘Groupe des Six’ of which Poulenc was one, and so as well as Tailleferre and Honegger who also represent this famous club, we have (among others) Taffanel as founder of the French flute school, Koechlin as Poulenc’s teacher, and some new works commissioned by Abbie de Quant and inspired by Poulenc’s own Sonate.
Claude Paul Taffanel created a huge, eight-volume flute method which is still a basic standard for professionals today. His compositions are effective and of course a gift for the flautist – his own emphasis on timbre as well as technical proficiency being reflected in lyrical works which go far beyond mere technical display. Abbie de Quant has a clear, fine tone, and phrases these works sensitively, the skittish Scherzettino contrasting nicely with the open and still fresh-sounding Andante Pastoral.
Charles Koechlin wrote vast amounts of music for flute, including ‘Les chants de nectaire’ which in its entirety would keep your audience busy for a whole day at least. The Sonate is representative of his flowing, lyrical style, distinctly French, and neither really modern nor overly romantic. Placed next to Poulenc’s own Sonate, it shows how the conventional idiom can be perpetuated, while the strength of character and individuality of each composer remains utterly distinctive. Abbie de Quant and Elizabeth van Malde’s performance of Poulenc’s masterpiece is nicely turned, the flautist’s tone liquid and expressive, dramatic and emphatic where required. 
Bart Visman’s Mélodie is in all aspects based on ‘song form’, in structure and character of writing for both piano and flute. The piece is quite approachable both as player and listener, with the piano’s song being often more bird-like, the flute elegiac and restrained.
Dutilleux’s Sonatine goes up against another CD from last year, that of Sharon Bezaly and Ronald Brautigam on BIS (see review). De Quant’s version sounds good, but for some reason – not standing on the correct spot being the most likely – the flute is more recessed in the balance of this recording at the opening, something which is corrected one minute in. Bezaly and Brautigam have a richer recording and the advantages of youth and SACD technology – their performance flows with an irrepressible joie de vivre which De Quant and Van Malde approach, but don’t quite attain.
Honegger’s Danse de la chèvre is one of those solo pieces which every flute player will come across sooner or later. Abbie de Quant’s experience shows, and I don’t doubt that she can play it in her sleep. The typically anti-romantic title is reflected in idiosyncratic rhythms and contrasts, and if you can’t quite see a dancing goat in your mind’s eye, that has more to do with a lack of visual reference material rather than Abbie de Quant’s excellent performance.

Jan Bus has, in Cherchez l’Orange, written a musical commentary on Poulenc’s Sonate, and come up with a bravura piece in traditional form and style. It is in no way an imitation of Poulenc, but maintains a similar atmosphere through its three movements – a lyric/dramatic first, a calmer middle movement with cinematic overtones, and with a finale which reminds me a little of some moments from the Prokofiev Sonata for flute and piano.

Germaine Tailleferre was of course the only female member of ‘Groupe des Six’, and had her own distinctive character and style – the feminine counterweight to many of the other members, but none the weaker for it. The Forlane is a short dance, lively and attractive, with that touch of introvert nostalgia which makes Tailleferre’s work endure.

Dick Kattenburg will be a new name to many. Like so many, his life was cut short in 1944 in a Nazi concentration camp, but at the age of 17 he had already partially acquired a personal style evidenced by his Sonate Op.5. There is much of his teacher, Willem Pijper, in some of the intervals and chords in the piano part, as there is in the ‘Habanera’ rhythms which also appear. The final ‘fughetta’ movement is a joy.

As recital discs go this has to be declared a great success. Well considered and adventurous programming stands high when evaluating such productions, but the standard of performance is also superb. There are one or two minor blips which I’ve restrained from harping on about, but it’s the overall impression which counts, and I for one would give it a firm recommendation.

Dominy Clements


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