I was very pleased with Naxos' recent release of Romantic Flute Concertos with Grauwels (8.555977), and this collection of French Flute Favorites is every bit as attractive, if not more so. This is balm to the ears, and I am reminded of a quote by Albert Schweitzer that I just read today: "There are two means of refuge from the misery of life – music and cats."
In the booklet notes, annotator Denis Verroust invokes "La Belle Epoque" – those decades before World War One when Parisians (at least the ones who could afford to) lived in a world of elegance and sensitivity. Whether Berlioz (1803-69) truly lived in this period is debatable. He is the oldest composer on this disc, and his bright-eyed little trio for two flutes and harp (Grauwels is joined by flutist Claudi Arimany and harpist Annie Lavoisier) is also known as the "Trio of the Young Ishmaelites." The youngest composer here is Philippe Gaubert, who was born in 1879 and lived until 1941. His graceful Divertissement grec for two flutes and orchestra (again, Grauwels is joined by Arimany) sounds like Debussy at his most La plus que lente salon-ish.
Johannès Donjon and Paul-Agricole Genin are mostly forgotten names, although they were virtuoso flutists of the era, and wrote extensively for that instrument. Genin's Carnaval de Venise still appears now and then as a virtuoso showpiece. It's not deep by any stretch of the imagination, but it lets the soloist strut his stuff. Benjamin Godard is remembered – when he is remembered! – for his opera Jocelyn, and specifically for that opera's Berceuse. The four short works programmed here are utter ear candy; one gathers that Godard had a special fondness for Mabel, whoever she might have been.
Charles Gounod's Petite symphonie is scored for flute and eight winds. It spotlights the flute, but it provides great opportunities for all of the musicians. Written near the end of Gounod's life, this work is pretty "hip" and forward-looking for the composer of Faust.
Grauwels has a reedier sound than some other star flutists, and I think it suits the repertoire very well. His singing tone is swooningly beautiful, and when agility is required, he has plenty of that too. The Chamber Orchestra of Waterloo is a little thin in the strings, but they have the music's style down pat. Recorded in a church, this CD also features warmly resonant recorded sound. What's not to like about this CD? Nothing.
Copyright © 2003, Raymond Tuttle