Colours of a Flute
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Syrinx (1913) [2:09]
*Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un Faune (arr. Gustav Samazeuilh) [10:02]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Pièce (1936) [4:41]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
*Flute Sonata (1956-57) [11:43]
Pierre-Octave FERROUD (1900-1936)
Trois Pièces (1921-22) [8:01]
André JOLIVET (1905-1974)
*Chant de Linos (1944) [11:11]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
*Le Merle Noir (1952) [5:43]
Urszula Janik (flute)
*Joanna Kaczmarska-Biezynska (piano)
rec. Chamber Music Hall, Warsaw Philharmonic, 14-16 December 2011.
CD ACCORD ACD 179-2 [54:37]
The 'Colours of a Flute' title is self-explanatory in this exploration by Polish flautist Urszula Janik of a gratifyingly lyrical mixture of core and rarer, solo and accompanied repertoire - French music from the first half of the 20th century indeed.
Listeners are "invited to embark on a fascinating journey" experienced through "the rich palette of flute colours". In that regard, one immediately apparent issue, in the duos, is that the flute has been recorded set back slightly from the piano. This has the effect, ironically, of slightly diluting those colours. On the other hand, the three solo works are entirely unaffected, and the quality of the engineering capturing the full range of the flute can be better appreciated.
Gustav Samazeuilh's arrangement for piano of Debussy's original orchestral score of Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un Faune may be tantamount sacrilege to many, but it does have the obvious advantage of allowing this impressionistic masterpiece to be performed all the more frequently. Nevertheless, Debussy had his reasons for not scoring for flute and piano, and certainly a significant portion of the work's inherent magic is lost.
Elsewhere, the neo-Classical contributions of Ibert, Poulenc and Ferroud combined with Jolivet's and Messiaen's altogether more - but not overly - avant-garde pieces add up to a programme that is as varied as it is entertaining. For those of more traditional tastes, Poulenc's adorable Sonata will probably be the highpoint of this recording in expressive terms, but Messiaen's ornithologically-inspired Blackbird gets the catholic vote.
Urszula Janik, who plays lead flute in the Warsaw Philharmonic, asserted her technical gumption recently on a Naxos recording of Penderecki's hardcore-modernist Fonogrammi (8.572482). A different kind of virtuosity is required in this altogether more ear-friendly recital. The technical demands are still high, of course, but Janik deals with them comfortably, at the same time demonstrating a considerable degree of delicacy and poise. Pianist Joanna Kaczmarska-Biezynska does not get a mention on the front cover, but she deserves one for her own appreciable and intelligent contribution.
Flute positioning aside, the audio is very good. A flautist's sharp intakes of air are the bane of many a recording, but not here. The Polish-English booklet notes by Aleksandra Beben are detailed and approachably intelligent, if on one occasion rather tendentious: "In the place of the pomposity and unbridled emotionality of the late Romanticism..." Translations are admirably done.
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A gratifyingly lyrical mixture of core and rarer, solo and accompanied repertoire.

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