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CD: Crotchet

Fauré and his circle
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Romance, op.37 (1871) [6:27]
Airs de ballet d’Ascanio (1890) [4:09]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Fantaisie, op.79 (1898) [5:11]
Morceau de lecture (1898) [1:37]
Vocalise-Étude (1906/1907) [2:57]
Interlude from Pelléas et Mélisande (1898) [1:13]
Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)
Deux Nocturnes, op.32bis (1897/1899 rev. 1907 & 1912) [5:37]
Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Scherzo-Pastorale, op.17 (1889 rev 1912) [4:13]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piece en forme de habanera (1907) [2:58]
Georges ENESCO (1881-1955)
Cantabile and Presto (1904) [5:50]
Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947)
Sicilienne et burlesque, op.23 (1914) [9:05]
Lili BOULANGER (1893-1918)
Nocturne (1911) [2:55]
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)
Prélude, récitative et variations (1928) [13:12]
Kathryn Thomas (flute), Richard Bayliss (horn), Lawrence Power (viola), Richard Shaw (piano)
rec. Leighton Park School, Reading. No date given. DDD
DEUX-ELLES DXL1125 [65:30]
Experience Classicsonline

This is a very interesting, and very enjoyable, collection of French miniatures written within a forty year period between 1889 and 1928. In general the music is for the drawing room and for family entertainment, plus a couple of test-pieces for the annual Paris Conservatoire examinations. 

Saint-Saëns’s Romance and the flute dances from his opera Ascanio make a delightful start, and set the tone for what is to follow. The former is real music for home consumption, and none the worse for that, and the dances from the opera were designed to give Paul Taffanel, the French flautist of the time, a showpiece, which they did and during a performance they had to be repeated!

Fauré’s Fantaisie and the Morceau de lecture, together with Enesco’s Cantabile and Presto and Casella’s Sicilienne et burlesque, were created for the Paris Conservatoire exams. The Morceau was written to be used as a sight-reading exercise. The three exam works are each in two parts, the first slow and the second fast. Despite their origins they are real pieces of music deserving of a place in the concert hall; certainly they transcend the usual fare of examination pieces. Fauré’s Vocalise-Étude, like Ravel’s Piece en forme de habanera, was written as a wordless song but it has been appropriated for many different instruments. Because of the “singing” nature of the music it fits woodwind instruments especially well.

Koechlin’s Deux Nocturnes, for flute, horn and piano, are quite dark and not a little disturbed. Schmitt’s Scherzo-Pastorale is more pastoral than scherzo; it’s in a medium tempo and is a delightfully playful thing. There is precious little music by Lili Boulanger, for she died too young, so this new recording of the delectable Nocturne is most welcome.

The biggest, and very satisfying, work here if Duruflé’s Prélude, récitative et variations for flute, viola and piano. It’s a very serious work, but, despite the mellow and rich sound of the viola, the music never becomes dark even though there are some searching moments, and there’s lots of interplay between the instruments. This is a real find.

The recording is excellent, crisp and clear with a good balance between the players. On the other hand, Kathryn Thomas is recorded too closely and one can hear every breath she takes. This, for me, became annoying after the first few minutes - however, the sound gives a good concert hall perspective.

This small reservation apart I can wholeheartedly recommend this disk for it is a sheer delight.

Bob Briggs  



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