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.
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
flautist of the time, a showpiece, which they did and during
a performance they had to be repeated!
and the Morceau de lecture
together with Enesco’s Cantabile and Presto
Casella’s Sicilienne et burlesque
, were created
for the Paris Conservatoire exams. The Morceau
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
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.