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Flute Music by Performing Artists of the 20th Century
Philippe GAUBERT (1879-1941)
Romance (1905) [7:56]
Sonate pour Flûte et Piano (1917) [15:37]
Lowell LIEBERMANN (b.1961)
Sonata Op. 23 (1988) [14:19]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Le Petit Berger [2:25]
Walter GIESEKING (1895-1956)
Sonatine (1937) [16:22]
Ary Van LEEUWEN (1875-1953) Polka Charactéristique Op. 3 for piccolo and piano [5:17]
Maurice Heugen (flute); Marianne Boer (piano)
rec. September 2006, Hardstudios, Switzerland. DDD
QUANTUM QM7044 [62:34]
Experience Classicsonline

The theme of this disc is flute works by composers who were also performers on various instruments. Of these, only two were flute players (Gaubert and Ary Van Leeuwen); the other three were (or are, in Liebermann’s case) pianists.
I had not previously heard of these performers, but was instantly absorbed by the richness of Maurice Heugen’s flute tone. Marianne Boer performs as a true duo partner, with sensitivity when required and the ability to play in a soloistic way when required.
The disc commences with two works by Gaubert, one of the fathers of the celebrated French flute school. The simple Romance is played here with lissom empathy and beautiful phrasing. The piano matches the warmth of the flute and it is immediately clear that this is a highly polished duo. The performance of the Sonata is equally enticing. The undulating movement in the piano part maintains the momentum and flow, and there is a real sense of partnership between the players. The slow movement has a feeling of tranquillity and calm, while the final movement is singing, passionate and exciting.
The opening of Liebermann’s Flute Sonata is slow and haunting, with interesting twists of harmony. The extreme tempo makes phrasing difficult, and Heugen does a reasonably good job here. The dramatic central section has power and energy, before the piano takes over with a delicately played melody line, which reminds me in many ways of music to accompany a slightly disturbing dream-sequence where all is not what it seems.  This could quite easily have been written to accompany a film; there is a frisson of danger and an unnerving sense of underlying turbulence, with all credit to these excellent performers who give a fantastic sense of drama and tension in this hypnotic rendition. The final movement is fast and furious, and full of fireworks. The demanding technical writing is well handled by both players, who maintained good rhythmic control and a driving momentum throughout the movement.
The simplicity of Debussy’s Le Petit Berger comes as a wonderful contrast, and shows another dimension to these performers. Their performance is unindulgent and beautifully shaped, with a wonderful sense of peace.
Walter Gieseking’s Sonata is full of the richness of sound we have now become accustomed to from these performers.  It is surprising that this work isn’t played more often; although it is beginning to become more known amongst flute players it is still often neglected. The opening movement is tinged with sadness, and the lyrical flute line takes on the majority of the melodic lines. The piano adds lush chromatic harmony, played here with a gently executed and well-considered rubato. The second movement is a lilting dance, full of character and poise. The triumphant final movement is joyful and romantic in its essence, and brings the work to a luminous close.
The disc ends with Ary Van Leeuwen’s Polka Charactéristique for piccolo and piano. A short and sparkling work, this is salon music with the prerequisite virtuosity from both performers. The piano playing is, once again, excellent, but I was not quite as convinced by Heugen’s piccolo tone. The technical demands are met with apparent ease, however, and the performance sparkles throughout.
In summary, this is an admirable disc featuring a satisfying variety of works. The performers are consistently excellent and their passion for the music they play communicates well.
Carla Rees


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