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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.