Joueurs de Flūte
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Sonatine (1922) [8:47]
Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937)
Joueurs de flūte (1925) [10:58]
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Flute sonata (1928) [12:03]
Aria (1930) [2:31]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Flute Sonata No. 1 (1943) [18:57]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955)
Romance (1953) [2:31]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Flute sonata (1957) [11:52]
Hansgeorg Schmeiser (flute)
Matteo Fossi (piano)
rec. 14 August 2011 (Poulenc), 7 March 2012 (Roussel), 2-3 February 2013, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, UK

This is an enjoyable and well-built program of twentieth century flute music. Four of the six composers are French, and another is an honorary Frenchman by residence and compositional influence. Honestly, it’s easy to love any CD of French flute music. This is the musical equivalent of getting a box of chocolates.

Francis Poulenc’s flute sonata is now well-known by the public, and a masterwork it is. Poulenc is joined here by his countrymen Milhaud, Roussel and Honegger, plus the long-time Parisian Bohuslav Martinů. Milhaud’s Sonatine contains three short movements, totalling only nine minutes. It is a work from Milhaud’s more serious, reflective side, rather than the jazzy exuberance of his most famous ballets. That said, “serious” for Milhaud never means dull.

Albert Roussel contributes two works. Joueurs de flūte depicts four mythical flute-players, including Pan, from Greece, and, in a seductive song with Eastern influences, Krishna. Roussel was very curious about the Indian culture; try his opera Padmavati. Aria is a very short melody-piece, and Honegger’s Romance is not dissimilar. The Martinů sonata is immediately recognizable as Martinů, provided you already know the composer; indeed, the first movement seems to quote his Second Symphony several times over. That symphony is one of his most joyful works, so it stands to reason that this sonata is, too.

The odd man out here, in terms of Frenchness, is Erwin Schulhoff, the Czech composer who absorbed a continent or two of influences before dying of tuberculosis in a Nazi concentration camp. Schulhoff learned from past Czech masters like Janacek, delighted in the ideas of the new European avant-garde, but was especially taken with American jazz, performing ragtime piano tunes after some of his recitals. His sonata fits in with the rest of the program although very light on both the jazz and the avant-garde aspects. Instead Schulhoff presents a sort of blend between French impressionism and Eastern European tradition, as pointed out in the booklet essay by MusicWeb International’s own Dominy Clements.

Hansgeorg Schmeiser (review ~ review ~ review), besides having a name which is delightful good fun to say aloud, has a long association with both the Volksoper in Vienna and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. He’s taught at a number of universities, as well. Matteo Fossi has accompanied him on previous Nimbus albums (review ~ review), and is an acclaimed chamber musician and teacher in his own right. Schmeiser has a big, choppy, occasionally irksome vibrato, but it’s worth the occasional bother to enjoy this otherwise well-done recital.

There are better recordings of a couple of these works elsewhere. For the Poulenc, my first choice is in the Naxos series helmed by pianist Alexandre Tharaud; the Roussel pieces are collected by Brilliant Classics into a box of his complete chamber music. The appeal of this disc is the eclectic assembly of the five composers, and how well their voices fit together. On that point, this is a winner.

Brian Reinhart

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