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CD Review

François Devienne

Flute Concertos, Volume 1

  • Flute Concerto #1 in D Major
  • Flute Concerto #2 in D Major
  • Flute Concerto #3 in G Major
  • Flute Concerto #4 in G Major
Patrick Gallois, flute
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Patrick Gallois
Naxos 8.573230 67m
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François Devienne (1759-1803) was a prominent composer in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but his reputation faded after his death and he became a largely forgotten composer until Jean-Pierre Rampal revived his flute concertos in the 1960s. Devienne wrote twelve concertos for flute, as well as five for bassoon. He also composed numerous wind sinfonias, sonatas for bassoon and oboe, various chamber works and twelve operas. In all, though he died at forty-four, he produced around three hundred compositions. Devienne's first important music post was as a bassoonist with the Paris Opera. During this time he was also studying flute performance with Felix Rault.

Devienne's style is fairly conservative for its time: his music often calls to mind Mozart, who was a contemporary, born just three years before Devienne. But where Mozart is ever imaginative and often uninhibited, Devienne is a bit academic and stylistically conformist. Not that his music is bland or without personality: Devienne offers many attractive themes in masterly scoring for both the flute and orchestra. Moreover, his structures, though rather formulaic, are well crafted and brilliantly molded to fit the concerto form. Devienne's solo flute writing always sounds natural for the instrument and yet is so often dazzling in its virtuosic character.

The four concertos here share many features in common: first movements are quite substantial in expressive character and length, middle movements tend to be restrained and lyrical, and finales are joyously vivacious Rondos. Moods are mostly chipper or energetic, though the middle panels of #1 and #2 are a bit somber. The Fourth Concerto is somewhat more sophisticated in its writing, and is perhaps the strongest work on the disc.

This Naxos CD is the first in an important series that will cover all twelve of Devienne's flute concertos. Veteran flutist Patrick Gallois, who studied under Jean-Pierre Rampal, plays brilliantly in all works, always displaying a deft touch for dynamics as well as a brilliant, all-encompassing technique. Gallois, who has also been regularly appearing as a conductor in the new century, serves in that role here as well, drawing splendid performances from the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Each concerto is performed with spirit and a sense of utter commitment by both soloist and orchestra. The sound reproduction is excellent and the album notes, though printed in a font to test your eyes, are very informative. Highly recommended to fanciers of flute music.

Copyright © 2015, Robert Cummings