Marcel Tournier’s Suite is a beautiful work, with stylistic nuances akin to Ravel, Debussy and Honegger. The opening movement is calm, with its focus on a simple melody line and colouristic effects from the combination of instruments, particularly flute, harp and violin. The second movement is a short but poised dance, while the third movement is built around a sumptuous cello solo. The final movement, Fête, is animated, with a sense of forward drive. Tournier creates space for each of the instruments to sound clearly within his textures. There is a sense of equality within the ensemble, each instrument providing its own colour where required.
Florent Schmitt’s Suite en rocaille is joyful and elegant, light-hearted and energetic, with four short movements. Schmitt was a composer, pianist and critic, and well received within the French musical scene. This is a highly enjoyable quintet, which has its roots in impressionism but has a relatively traditional language.
The opening moments of Pierné’s Variations libres et finale are truly breathtaking, with Robert Aitken’s flute in its low register producing a rich tone. Pierné’s music had a reputation for elegance, and this is immediately apparent in this work. His textures are translucent, while the diversity of sounds from within the quintet is carefully handled. The charming fast section towards the end is light and ebullient, with a poised sense of charm.
Francaix’s Quintette begins with a simple, well formed and calm Andante tranquillo. Francaix’s music is based on traditional forms, using a witty language to give a modern feel. The Scherzo is a fine example of his wit, and is a challenging movement full of character and sparkle. The remaining two movements also take on distinctive moods and are played with energetic vigour.
The disc ends with the Sérénade by Roussel. A neo-classical work, the piece has a delightful sonata-form opening movement with both spirit and a sense of refinement. The flute performs a fantasia-style solo melody in the Andante, over still exotic string harmonies, giving the music a sense of almost improvised freedom with gentle pizzicato cello punctuating the flow. This is an atmospheric piece that is performed here with sensitivity. The fiery final Presto is light, agile and highly convincing.
Although this disc is labelled French Flute Chamber Music, and Robert Aitken’s flute playing is undoubtedly excellent, the other instruments take on an equal role throughout. They deserve their share of the credit for this recording. The ensemble plays with a sense of unity and sensitivity, creating a well-balanced sound allowing solo lines to come through the texture. The repertoire heard here is successful, despite the inclusion of some less well known composers from the turn of the century. It has much to offer. The playing is consistently excellent and there is a wonderful range of expression. This makes a very good addition to any CD collection.
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by Oleg Ledeniov