Kenneth Smith is known to many as
the long standing principal flute
player of the Philharmonia. An unassuming
man, he has developed a reputation
as one of the UK’s best flute players,
and it is clear from this recording
that he is a consummate musician.
with Martinů’s Sonata,
this disc is a feast for the ears.
The first movement is lyrical and
somewhat understated, drawing the
listener in. The second movement
is exquisitely played, with dark
harmonies and rich tone colours.
The performers have been working
together for over twenty years and
one senses an instinctive communication
between them. Paul Rhodes is an
excellent accompanist who plays
with impressive sensitivity, as
well as taking centre-stage where
required. This is a dramatic work,
composed in 1945 at the request
of René Le Roy. The three
movements contain both rhythmic
and harmonic complexities which
drive the music forward. This is
an excellent performance throughout.
Roussel’s set of
four short pieces, Joueurs de
Flûte, is a tribute to
four legendary flute players from
different cultures; Pan tells
of the famous flute-god, who is
half man and half goat and falls
in love with the nymph Syrinx; Tityre
is a Shepherd boy from the Eclogues
by Virgil; Krishna is a flute-playing
Indian god, while Monsieur de
la Péjaudie is a character
from a novel by Henri de Régnier.
Smith and Rhodes perform each movement
with a strong sense of character,
from the frivolous and lively Tityre
to the dreamy Pan.
and Presto is one of a number
of works written as a test-piece
for the Paris Conservatoire, and
is well known in the flute’s repertoire.
In this performance, the Cantabile
is luxurious and indulgent,
and slower than some other interpretations,
but Smith and Rhodes judge the spacing
so well that it is unquestionably
successful. The Presto is
played with a sense of lightness
and is well controlled.
Perhaps the least
known composer of this disc, Melanie
Bonis was a student of Franck’s
at the Paris Conservatoire. Rich
and sumptuous, this sonata contains
expressive melodic lines and interplay
between the flute and piano, which
is played with panache by these
is possibly the best known solo
flute work, and there are as many
different interpretations as there
are performances. Here, Kenneth
Smith makes use of rubato to give
a flexible performance which is
expressive and imaginative. He deploys
tone colours to give variety to
his sound and provides a convincing
set of musical ideas.
The final work
on the disc is Schubert’s Variations
which make use of the theme
from Trockne Blumen from
Die Schöne Mullerin.
This is an epic work for the flute,
lasting half an hour on this recording.
The dark introduction is well judged
and entices the listener onwards.
Smith performs the theme with a
vocal lyricism which is tinged with
sorrow. The variations that follow
are expertly performed, with Smith
demonstrating impressive breath
control and a wonderful tone quality
throughout. The technically demanding
passages are performed with ease
by both musicians, and Rhodes makes
an excellent job of the virtuoso
piano passages. By contrast, the
slower, more expressive moments
are performed with sensitivity and
This is a wonderful
disc, both in terms of the repertoire
and the quality of the performance.
It is the sort of playing that makes
you sit up and listen; the artistry
of these musicians is impressive
and demands attention. I can’t wait
to hear the duo’s next CD, of British
music, due in early 2009.