Henri DUTILLEUX (b.1916) Sonatine [9:18]
Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES (1884-1920) Poem [9:35]
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974) Ballade [7:15]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Sonata No 1 in A major [26:01]
Kara Kirkendoll Welch (flute); Gabriel Sanchez (piano)
rec. 7-9 July 2008, Caruth Auditorium, Southern Methodist University, USA. DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS 1286 [52:12]

This is the debut recording from Dallas Symphony Orchestra flute player Kara Kirkendoll Welch, with a programme of late romantic and twentieth century works.

Dutilleux’s Sonatine is played here with a gently undulating opening and a sweet tone. Welch has good technical control and a clear sound which is enjoyable to listen to. At times I would have liked a little more sense of drama; this is a piece which can show a full range of expression and dynamic range. I very much enjoyed the lighter moments in the piece, with its nimble semiquaver movement and well-phrased lines, but I missed the energy in the crescendos and the exhilaration that can come from a little more aggression at moments.

Poem by Charles Griffes follows, and the opening is winningly phrased. There are some beautiful moments from pianist Gabriel Sanchez too, who plays with a wonderful sensitivity. There is more drama in this performance, and Welch’s style of playing suits the work well.

Martin’s Ballade is another well-loved flute work of the twentieth century, with a sense of romanticism combined with a distinctive harmonic voice. Welch and Sanchez build up the tension effectively with increasing intensity and broodingly dark moments from the piano.

Fauré’s Sonata No 1 was originally composed for violin and piano, but has been arranged and adopted into the flute’s repertoire. A substantial four movement work, lasting around twenty-five minutes, it is written in a rich romantic style, with flowing lines and a strong sense of melody. The sprawling first movement is elegant and graceful, with interesting harmonic developments and a sense of constant movement. The second movement is a gentle andante, with long phrases and an over-riding sense of calm. The short third movement is energetic and light, with fleeting technical work. Here I felt the piano was slightly stronger than the flute in both balance and clarity. The final movement is a return to the lyrical style of the opening, with flowing lines and building strength.

Overall, this is an enjoyable disc, which is played well and has a sense of polish. Both players have an impressive command of their instruments and play with musical phrasing. The flute is often a little overshadowed by the piano in the balance, and in general I would have liked a greater sense of power in the forte sections, with more variety in the dynamic range. Welch excels with the more gentle, expressive side of the repertoire, but I didn’t feel enough energy at the louder end to keep me fully immersed in the musical expression. Nevertheless, this is a good first recording and I look forward to hearing more from this duo.

Carla Rees