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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Naxos 8.573337

Folk Song Variations

  • Six Variations on Folk Songs, Op. 105
  • Ten Variations on Folk Songs, Op. 107
Patrick Gallois, flute
Maria Prinz, piano
Naxos 8.573337 72:02
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This is minor Beethoven at best, but is does fill a repertoire gap of sorts. Apparently, Beethoven's pen pal George Thompson had a hobby of commissioning folk song arrangements from the great composers of his day. Op. 105 and Op. 107 were written for piano, and then given optional parts for whoever else happened to be around that day. Haydn's folk songs are delightful, and – perhaps surprisingly – so are Beethoven's. They have a lightness and playfulness that we generally don't associate with this surly genius, and Gallois and Prinz obviously are having a tremendous amount of fun.

The question of "Do I need 77-plus minutes of Beethoven for flute and piano?" is a valid one, although that's no fault of Gallois, who has turned himself into a really excellent flautist/conductor. And Maria Prinz perfectly understands the moods of this generally cheerful music. Naxos has always done well by chamber music, and the engineers do a typically fine job. Listening continuously, one has to admire Beethoven's ability to elevate these simple settings to genuinely interesting chamber music. Sure, it still doesn't compare to some of the other things he wrote (okay, most other things he wrote), but it's so much better than some of the early dreck we writers go through that even minor Beethoven proves worth a listen.

Truthfully, none of Beethoven's music for flute ranks all that highly in comparison to his other works, but I imagine anyone who wants these pieces on a single disc will be more than happy. Gallois apparently plays using ornamentations and improvising based on period practice, but unless you are a Classical period flute enthusiast or know these works well, I highly doubt that this will influence your purchase. If nothing else, this offers further proof that Patrick Gallois is willing to go the extra mile in exploring the range of his instrument. Flute players and fans should be grateful to him, and to Naxos as well.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman