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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet (1907) [10:20]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Sonata for flute, viola and harp (1915) [15:19]
Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)
Sérénade for flute, string trio and harp (1925) [15:52]
Joseph Marie GUY-ROPARTZ (1864-1955)
Prélude, Marine et Chansons (1928) [11:37]
François-Adrien BOIELDIEU (1775-1834)
Concerto for Harp* (1801) [21:43]
Osian Ellis (harp); Marie-Claire Jamet (harp)*; Melos Ensemble; Orchestre de Chambre Paul Kuentz de Paris*
Originally released on L’Oiseau-Lyre and Decca
ALTO ALC 1203 [75:03]

This album comprises reissues of material first released back in 1962 on L’Oiseau-Lyre and Decca. We start with the much admired recording of Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro with Osian Ellis and the Melos Ensemble. This enchanting work, like most others featuring the harp has a wistful, other-worldly or delicate feminine character. The woodwinds weave patterns suggestive of bird flight and birdsong while the emotional drift is left to harp and strings. Similar to Ravel’s witchery, is Debussy’slateSonata for flute, viola and harp. Of it the composer commented, “It is terribly sad and I don’t know whether one ought to laugh or cry. Perhaps both.” It is delicate, haunted and sensual and the Ellis/Melos reading is justly celebrated. Both works were released on a Decca CD, 421 154-2 together with sonatas for violin and piano by Franck and Debussy. The Alto booklet reminds us that all the works on this CD except the Boieldieu were originally released in LP format on L’Oiseau-Lyre SOL 60048.
Roussel’s Sérénade for flute, string trio and harp commences with an Allegro that has a tune that one might wonder where it has been heard before. It is stated against flaky pizzicatos and staccato bowings. This quirky work is dedicated to Réné le Roy, an eminent flautist. Indeed the flute has a major solo role especially in the rather morose but interesting Andante middle movement. The harp pictures, perhaps, some sort of precipitation - rain, snow or sleet - as a background to the cello’s sad song embroidered by violin and flute. The Presto finale brings welcome relief with the instruments eager, it seems, to depart the foregoing despair.

The Ropartz shows the influence of César Franck and Breton music. It is sweetly outdoor music. The Prelude is expressively pastoral, sunny and serene and affectionately nostalgic. Marine suggests calm seas, glinting waters and hovering seagulls while the Chansons third movement is more animated and elated. It probably owes much to popular Breton music.
Boieldieu was born in Rouen in 1775 some three years after Mozart had composed his popular concerto for flute and harp. The present work is very Mozartian in character beginning in a grandiose manner before the harp’s delicate filigree and a pleasant catchy little melody. The middle Andante is darker, almost funereal. The harp’s tread is dejected and mournful with only slight respite from the gloom as the harp remembers slightly happier times. High spirits are regained with the Rondeau last movement, marked Allegro agitato. The harp rejoices in a likeable bouncy and sprightly dance.
Another, always welcome reissue of a delightful clutch of French music. Had it not been so, it would have been one of my Recordings of the Month.
Ian Lace  

See also review by Rob Barnett