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French Chamber Music for Winds and Piano
Les Solistes de l’Orchestre de Paris
Laurent Wagschal (piano)
rec. March 2020, Libretto à Antony studio, La Rochelle, France
INDESENS INDE142 [63:19]

Les solistes de l’Orchestre de Paris are the front desk woodwind and horn players of the said orchestra, and they have had the delightful idea of compiling a programme drawing on their talents, sometimes together with a pianist, the excellent Laurent Wagschal, and also giving each a duet with piano. The pieces chosen range in date from 1875 to 1947 but all show the characteristic virtues of French music in being short, witty and beguiling.

Roussel’s Divertissement sets the scene. This is a one-movement piece for wind quintet and piano which starts out as if it were going to be neoclassical – although it long predates that idiom – but later has its romantic and impressionist moments. Despite the unstable idiom, this is an attractive work.

Koechlin offers a sonata for bassoon and piano in three short movements, the first alternately dreamy and perky, the second a Nocturne which begins like a copy of the Chopin Barcarolle, and the finale lively. It is hard to think that this effective work had to wait twenty years for its first performance and even longer for publication.

Paul Taffanel was a new name to me. He was a flautist and later a conductor who played an important role in the development of his instrument and wrote a number of works for it. His Andante Pastoral and Scherzino, for flute and piano, has a touch of Spanishery in the Andante, while the Scherzino is neat and charming.

D'Indy was nearly always a serious composer. His Sarabande et Minuet are transcriptions by the composer for wind quintet and piano of two movements from his Suite in the Old Style. The Sarabande injects a note of solemnity into the proceedings but the Menuet is suprisingly playful, with tricksy rhythms and a lyrical trio.

Messager’s Solo de concours, for clarinet and piano, was written as a competition piece and puts the clarinet through its paces ending with a brilliant finale, in which I hear more than an echo of the finale of Weber’s Duo Concertant for the same combination.

Françaix’s L’Heure du Berger, in three short movements with modish titles, is pleasant café music with no pretensions beyond a desire to please, which it does very nicely.

Chabrier’s Larghetto, for horn and piano, is very virtuosic, but despite lovely playing, seemed to me rather sprawling and uncharacteristic of the composer. This is the one disappointment here.

Eugene Bozza’s Fantaisie Pastorale, for oboe and piano, is somewhat Debussyian but also has some sonorous and minatory writing for the oboe.

Finally, we have La Danse de la Sorcière by Tansman, a Polish émigré to Paris. This was originally intended for a ballet and was scored for orchestra. The composer later transcribed this piece for wind quintet and piano, in which form it makes a rousing finale.

The playing is throughout expert and attractive, the recording is clear and good and the sleeve notes helpful. There is everything to like about this charming disc.

Stephen Barber

Albert Roussel (1869-1937) Divertissement (1906) [6:54]
Charles Koechlin (1867-1950) Sonata, for bassoon and piano (1919) [10:02]
Paul Taffanel (1844-1908) Andante Pastoral and Scherzino, for flute and piano (1907) [5:41]
Vincent d’Indy (1851-1931) Sarabande et Menuet (1918) [7:13]
Jean Françaix (1912-1997) L’Heure du Berger (1947) [8:03]
Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894) Larghetto, for horn and piano (1875) [8:18]
Eugène Bozza (1905-1991) Fantasie pastorale, for oboe and piano (1939) [6:04]
Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986) La Danse de la Sorcière (1923) [4:48]

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