Music for flute and piano Philippe GAUBERT (1879-1941)
Sonata No. 1 in A major (1917)[15.17] Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Three Consolations(transcr. Linda Marianiello) [11.49] Charles Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Suite for flute and piano Op. 34 (1898) [18.00] César FRANCK(1882-1890)
Sonata in A major (transcr. from Violin Sonata 1886) [26.32]
Linda Marianiello (flute); Robert
rec. August 1996, Europasaal, Bayreuth. DDD MSR CLASSICSMS1303 [78.26]
What makes this CD especially interesting
is not just the charm of the four pieces recorded but the
fact that the instruments used are of particular relevance.
I will explain further.
You will notice that the music was recorded
in Bayreuth which Franz Liszt visited on many occasions
to see the Wagners. Eduard Steingraeber had a piano manufacturing
business there and one of his pianos, number 4328 to be
precise, was a favourite of the composers and he often
played it. It is known that one of these occasions was
on 27 June 1886. This is the mellifluous instrument played
here by Robert Morrison who is perhaps better known as
assistant Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. This piano
possesses an idyllic piano dynamic and very little volume
above mf. In
addition the flute used by Linda Marianiello was made by
Verne Q. Powell around 1930. Its tone is gentle and the
two together make a lovely and wistful balance. As the
anonymous booklet notes tell us “the music features both
instruments in equal partnership and neither should dominate”.
The overall sound of this recital is one of intimacy and
to quote again “The music for this recording was selected
with the ambience of a nineteenth-century salon or small
concert hall in mind”.
It is appropriate therefore that Liszt
should feature here despite the fact that he did not write
anything for flute and piano. The ‘Three Consolations’ have
been arranged by Linda Marianiello from the piano pieces
numbers two, three and four. She gave the first performance
of them at Bayreuth using this Liszt piano. They represent
Liszt in a romantic, meditative almost vacant mood. They
work beautifully for these two instruments and are especially
effective in the lower registers in the third piece.
The three movement Sonata by Philippe
Gaubert is not dated in the booklet, but it is of 1917.
It is his first of three. He was professor of flute at
the Paris Conservatoire and no flautist can escape his
music. But why would they want to: the Sonata is melodic,
vaguely impressionistic and highly attractive as well as
being good to play. There are several challenges not immediately
apparent to the listener. The work makes an ideal opener
for the CD.
Perhaps, like me, you only know of Charles
Marie Widor through his organ symphonies and especially
through the famous Toccata. If that’s the case, this four
movement Suite for flute and piano will come as a pleasant
surprise. The insert notes somewhat over-state the case
when they describe the first and third movements as dramatic
and brooding. These instruments cannot quite do ‘dramatic’.
The second movement is breathless and exhilarating and
so is the finale. The virtuosity of both instruments is
Marianiello and Morrison are a real partnership.
Both players show themselves to be masters of fine phrasing
and dynamics, building an overall architectural picture
and defying the inherent limitations of their respective
instruments. This is especially evident in the last work
under the microscope here: the longest on the CD, the César
The booklet notes contain an interesting
essay on Bayreuth and its history. There are background
notes on the performers with photographs. We can also read
about the instruments but there’s nothing about the music.
I cannot therefore tell you if this flute sonata, originally
written for the violin, is the version transcribed by Franck
himself or by some other gifted flautist. I might in certain
circumstances have said that the flute cannot convey adequately
the moments of power and passion that come throughout the
work. However in the context of this piano and with such
a natural balance between the instruments aided by a super
recording, that criticism will not hold water. You might
however feel a little emotionally let down at the end as
the work in this version appears to be somewhat lighter
and more amiable than its original.
I’m not quite sure why this disc, recorded
in 1996, has only just been made available for reviewing
but it well worth hearing and admiring. Whether at the
end of the day I shall ever get around to playing it again
I’m not so sure.
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