It is always interesting to come across a piece of Widor that is not
written for organ. Recent years have seen a greater exploration of this
composer’s works which include symphonies, concertos and a considerable
range of chamber works. The statistics of record releases (Arkiv) tell the
full story – 246 CDs including his organ music, 50 reflecting chamber music,
8 recordings of orchestral music and one of his songs. There are more than
82 versions of his ubiquitous Toccata from the Fifth Organ Symphony.
The Suite for flute and piano is regarded as one of Widor’s finest chamber
works. It was written in 1877 for the flautist Paul Taffanel (1844-1908).
The liner-notes explain that it was as a result of Taffanel’s development of
flute technique that many French composers were inspired to write for the
The listener could be forgiven for imagining this technically demanding
Suite is really a Sonata by another name. Yet, the composer felt that as the
first movement was not written in sonata-allegro form with traditional
exposition, development and recapitulation, it was best to refer to it as a
Suite. Irrespective of its status this is a stunningly beautiful work that
well reflects the ‘contrasting timbres of the flute and piano’.
Cecile Chaminade’s Concertino was originally written for flute and
orchestra in 1902. A few years later she made an arrangement for flute and
piano. The liner-notes suggest that it was an examination piece for flute
students at the Paris Conservatoire. There is a long-standing (doubtless
untrue) legend that Chaminade wrote this work to punish a flute-playing
lover after he had left her for another woman. She decided to write a piece
so fiendishly difficult that even this Lothario would be unable to play it.
The resultant work, whatever the true story, is clearly technically
difficult, yet it never becomes merely an academic exercise. This is an
attractive piece that deserves its place in the flute and piano repertory.
Interestingly there are a number of recordings of this work in its
orchestral guise, but the present CD seems to be the only one of the chamber
arrangement currently available. I have found that James Galway included the
piece on his 1997 album Music for my Friends
but this seems to have
been deleted from the catalogue.
Like many works that are entitled ‘Sonatine’, Henri Dutilleux’s example is
certainly not a ‘prentice work designed to hone the neophyte’s playing
skills. This work displays ‘formidable technical demands’ on both players,
but especially the flautist. It was written as a commission from the Paris
Conservatoire in 1942.
Dutilleux was a fastidious composer who unfortunately destroyed most of
his early music. His official Op. 1 is the 1947-8 Piano Sonata. The notes
suggest that the Flute Sonatine is the only work predating this that has
survived: this is not correct. There is also an oboe sonata, a Sarabande and
cortège for bassoon and piano, Au gré des ondes
, 6 petites pièces
pour piano and a number of songs.
The Sonatine is in three sections but is heard as one continuous movement.
The work combines lyricism, a certain mysticism and fiendishly difficult
The Flute Sonata by the Georgian composer Otar Taktakishvili sounds like
Malcolm Arnold meets Prokofiev. A largely lyrical work, there are some
darker moments. The outer movements are characterised by considerable wit
and a vivacious style of writing. The middle ‘aria’ is deeply felt and
rather wistful in mood. Taktakishvili is a composer I have not come across
before, but based on this Sonata, he seems a worthy cause for exploration.
Alas, apart from numerous recordings of the present work there are only two
other CDs mentioned in the Arkiv catalogue – the Piano Concerto No.1 and the
Violin Concerto No. 2.
Astor Piazzolla’s Histoire du Tango
(1986) is too well-known to
require much commentary. However it is interesting to note that the present
recording for flute and piano is a premiere of this arrangement. Piazzolla,
in his fusion of the tango with the ‘wide range of Western musical elements’
has done for the tango what Bartok did for Rumanian folk music and Erik
Chisholm has done for Scottish ‘piobaireachd’. The present ‘Histoire’ charts
the historical progress of the tango from the bordellos of the early 1900s
to the concert halls and recital rooms of the 1980’s. Two stopovers are made
at a Café in 1930 and a Night Club in 1960. It is a fine work that has
become justifiably popular. I enjoyed this attractive version for flute and
piano and it deserves to become successful.
All in all, this is a fascinating CD. The playing by Odinn Baldvinsson,
flute and Patricia Romero, piano is superb in every way. All of these works
are technically demanding. The recording is excellent. The notes are clear,
easy to read and immediately helpful.
For all enthusiasts of flute music this disc is a must. My favourite work
was the Widor, but all the other pieces are of huge interest and musical
The first Cantilena disc is reviewed here