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CD Review

Romantic Flute Concertos

Marc Grauwels, flute and piccolo
Joris Van den Hauwe, oboe
Guy Vanderborght, clarinet
Orchestre symphonique de la Radio & Télévision Belge/André Vandernoot
Naxos 8.555977 DDD 59:15
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Older collectors might remember the name of Belgian conductor André Vandernoot, whose career, if he is still alive, is now in its sixth decade. It was a pleasant surprise to see his name on this CD, and to find that he remains happily associated with worthwhile projects such as the present one. Grauwels is no newcomer either, and he has been an important part of the Belgian musical scene since at least the early 1970s.

Apart from the misnomer title, this disc is a charmer in every way. Most of the music is unfamiliar, but there's nothing disposable about it. The two concertante works by near-contemporaries Moscheles (where an oboe joins the flute) and Donizetti exemplify the poise and grace of the best music from the early Romantic period. They're not masterpieces, but they are unfailingly attractive. Pan et les oiseaux (Pan and the birds) by Jules Mouquet (1867-1949) goes a notch higher. Here's a memorable little tone-poem from French Romanticism's fullest flowering. In Saint-Saëns's Tarentelle, Grauwels is joined by clarinetist Guy Vanderborght, and both players remain blissfully unconcerned that this work sounds rather like the finale of Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony!

The Fauré pieces are, for the most part, more familiar in their flute and piano guise, but the orchestrations recorded here are tasteful. The Ravel also is an arrangement, and if the scoring cools it down some, it still retains its languorous appeal. The disc closes, surprisingly, with an infectious march by Eugène Damaré. Here, Grauwels trades the flute for a piccolo, and his tone retains its brilliance without becoming harsh. Throughout, Grauwels clearly is a star flutist, with tone, taste, and sensitivity for a whole cadre of soloists. What a delightful achievement this CD is!

This recording was made in 1990. Has it remained unissued until now? For shame. The engineering is excellent. I do wish Marc Grauwels's booklet notes had told us a little more about the music, though.

Copyright © 2003, Raymond Tuttle