Postcards from Paris
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974) Corcovado [2:28]; Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) Pièce en forme de habanera [3:14]; Francis KLEYNJANS (b.1951) Deux Arias Op. 92B [7:04], Deux Valses pour guitare solo Op. 64 [2:49]; Jacques IBERT (1890-1962) Entr’acte [3:28], Pièce [4:41]; Louis MOYSE (1912 - 2007) Cantos de las Sierras [17:23]; Francis POULENC (1899-1963) Mouvements Perpétuels [6:25]; Claude DEBUSSY (1862 – 1918) The Girl with the Flaxen Hair [3:41]; Syrinx [2:40]; Erik SATIE (1866-1925) Trois Gymnopédies [7:49]; Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Berceuse [2:25]
Michaella LaPorte (flute); Gerald Saulter (guitar)
rec. May 2006, Serenade Music Studio, Saint James, New York. DDD
CENTAUR CRC 2883 [64:17]
This disc contains some charming French repertoire for flute and guitar. Beginning with Milhaud’s Corcovado, a short work with well-shaped melodic lines and exotic harmonies, the scene is set for a Parisian adventure. Each of the composers heard here had a connection with the Paris Conservatoire, and concise composer information is provided in the sleeve-notes. This is an unedited recording, with the aim of maintaining a sense of live performance.
Francis Kleynjans was not known to me before this disc, but his Deux Arias are simply written, well constructed and have some charm. The first Aria brings to mind melodically Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un Gentilhombre, and the two instruments form a well balanced ensemble. The Deux Valses for solo guitar are short and take on different waltz styles; the Latin American Choro is moderately paced while the Française is lighter and more fluid.
Ibert’s Entr’acte is a tense work with conflicting tonalities and a distinctly Spanish feel. The syncopated dotted rhythms in the flute seemed to drag slightly, and some of the faster triplet motifs suffered from unevenness at times. Pièce is for solo flute, and demonstrated LaPorte’s enjoyable sound. This is a competent rendition, although I would have enjoyed more sense of fantasy in the phrases to give a stronger sense of the performer’s personality in the music.
Louis Moyse is perhaps best known as the son of the legendary Marcel Moyse, but was a successful musician himself. The Cantos de las Sierras are a set of three enjoyable pieces which have a strong sense of character. It is here that the duo begins to show their real abilities; LaPorte’s flute tone is richer and has more direction through the melodic lines, especially in the central movement. Saulter’s guitar is always enjoyable and he makes an excellent duo partner.
Poulenc’s Mouvements Perpétuels were originally written for piano but work well in this arrangement for flute and guitar. The music has a playful character and Poulenc’s individual approach to harmonic writing gives a sense of mysteriousness to the mood of the central movement. The intonation suffers slightly in the wider intervals of the flute part but this is otherwise a sound performance.
No anthology of French music would be complete without Debussy, and he is represented here with The Girl With the Flaxen Hair, performed on solo guitar, and Syrinx for solo flute. Saulter gives a convincing guitar solo with a good sense of pacing and changes of colour in the sound. Syrinx is open to many differences of interpretations between performers and it is often a matter of personal taste as to what works best. LaPorte begins with a bright sound and plays with much rubato throughout. There is a lot of artificial reverb on the sound which distracts slightly.
Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies are played with a lovely sense of Romanticism and the first in particular has the feeling of daydreams. The duo plays well together and their individual sonorities come together convincingly. LaPorte’s tone is particularly enjoyable here, and she does not over-use vibrato in the way that flute players sometimes do. The guitar is sensitive in its accompaniment throughout and there is a well-judged balance between the instrument’s treble and bass. The disc ends with Fauré’s charming Berceuse, a simple and elegant work which is often included in discs of this kind.
The performers on this disc are described as multi-award winning and have performed together internationally under the name of the Serenade Duo. Their biographies, both individually and as a duo are impressive, with many accolades in their native USA, but the playing on this disc failed to excite me to the extent that such accolades led me to expect. I would have liked a greater sense of expression and more energy and flair from the performers. The sound in general has a sense of being slightly muffled and it is sometimes difficult to hear clarity in the mid-range guitar. This is a self-produced disc and perhaps these sound issues can be improved on in future releases. I would be interested to hear this duo live to discover if the lack of dynamic range in this recording comes from the recording technique itself or from the playing. Nevertheless, this disc contains an interesting range of repertoire and has some enjoyable moments.
An interesting range of repertoire and some enjoyable moments … see Full Review