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8.555954 - French Flute Favourites
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French Flute Favourites

French Flute Favourites

 

Reference to the Belle Epoque brings a smile to the lips and a feeling of nostalgia. It conjures up a picture of Paris, Its famous bandstands, an atmosphere of general jubilation, a carefree world. At the same time we have no difficulty in remembering the exceptional richness of France's musical life in that period, when publishers' catalogues were daily being enriched with the most brilliant new polkas, mazurkas and waltzes, and Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy were writing some of their finest works. If the literature for flute at the turn of the century is today seeing an exceptional revival of interest, it is precisely due to that unique musical duality in genre, where the deepest of emotions, the most sincere feelings and the most naive charm come together in a fragile but wholly perceptible manner. An instrument like the flute thus had everything to gain. The first half of the nineteenth century saw the unchallenged reign of the virtuoso composer and, consequently, the flowering of a brilliant form of writing, in perfect accord with the desires and needs of the virtuoso performer. Chamber music was barely heard of in the music of flute virtuosi, and romantic sonatas played a large part in the writing of pianists like Hummel, Czerny, Kuhlau and Moscheles. On the other hand, even if great composers looked down on it, the flute was to reach the heights of popularity, especially among the middle classes. Everywhere, those who liked the instrument wrote work after work in the form of duos and trios for it, and this success was to serve the instrument from the 1850s, giving it one of the greatest shares in a new genre, the music of the salon. These were other changes. Compositions were more diversified, and to what was previously purely spectacular, a more exotic, burlesque, pastoral mood of the unusual was preferred. At the same time, orchestras were developing and wind instruments assuming greater importance. Hector Berlioz was to be the prime mover of this revolution. Later, the arrival of Paul Taffanel pushed this change still further. An exceptional soloist, founder of the Société de Musique de Chambre pour Instruments à Vent (1879) (Society of Chamber music for Wind Instruments), his position as professor at the Conservatoire in Paris enabled him to commssion a whole new repertoire from different composers. If it is this development that certainly encouraged flautists at this period, it was really the mood of the Belle Epoque which led the public to rediscover it. The music which Mac Grauwels and the Orchestre de Chambre de Waterloo offer in their recital, however varied, is in every way represel1tative of its own period.

 

The first two works come from two virtuosi, colourful characters and masters of the seductive musical art of the salon Johannes Donjon (1839-1912), a pupil of Jean-Louis Tulou, was awarded his prize at the Conservatoire in 1856, and among other things was the solo flautist at the Société des Concerts in the Conservatoire. His Qffertoire for flute and piano, or harmonium, if circumstances so dictated, is numbered Opus 12 and dated 1900. Its elegiac style is perfectly in tune with the person to whom it was dedicated, Louis Dorus, professor at the Conservatoire, one of the first ardent defenders of the Böhm Flute, and known for his own qualities of style and expression. The Carnaval de Venise, Opus 14, by Paul-Agricole Genin (1832-1903), first flute of the Orchestre de Vichy then at the Théâtre Italien in Paris, has for a long time served as a flautist's war-horse. Whether for piccolo or flute, it was written for Eugène Damaré, the greatest virtuoso of the piccolo at the end of the century, composer of the famous Rossignol de l'Opéera and of the famous polka earlier recorded by Marc Grauwels, Le Merle Blanc (Naxos 8.555977).

 

The name Benjamin Godard (1849-1895) is now largely forgotten, except, perhaps, for the Berceuse from his opera Jocelyn, Opus 100, first staged at the Opéra de la Monnaie in Brussels in 1888. Among other compositions, in almost all genres, we find evocative titles: Sonate fantastique pour piano, Symphonie légendaire, Symphonie orientale, Conte de fée, Viennoise, Bohémienne, Brésilienne and so on. Among the quantity of chamber music he wrote, there is only one work for flute, but a very successful one, the Suite de trois Morceaux Opus 116. Published in 1890, it was dedicated to Paul Taffanel and soon became a standard element in flute repertoire, Thanks, among other things, to its final Waltz. The less well-known first two movements hold attention through their elegance and delicacy. The Légende pastorale and the Sérénade à Mabel belong to another triptych, entitled Scénes écossaises and originally written for oboe and piano in 1892 for Georges Gillet. The pastoral mood of Légende is heard in discreet ornamentation, followed by a singing central section. The Sérénade suggests something of the Waltz of Opus 116, but is more reserved, though full of spirit.

 

Two works for two flutes follow. The Divertissenment grec by Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941) was also originally accompanied by the harp and was published in 1908. It is interesting to note that, although fifty years apart in date and differing in nature, these two works seem to stem from the same inspiration. The charm of antiquity has certainly something to do with this, and the feeling of nostalgia predominates, the same feeling that leads us back today to the Belle Epoque.

 

The other, quite well known, is the Trio des jeunes Ismaélites from the oratorio L'Enfance du Christ Opus 25, of Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), a former composition student of Anton Reicha in Paris, who not only had a perfect knowledge of wind instruments, but also played the flute himself.

 

Charles Gounod (1818-1893) hardly needs introduction. His Petite symphonie in B flat major, for flute and wind octet, was written for the Société de Musique de Chambre pour Instruments à Vent, and given its first performance by the ensemble on 30th April l885, with Paul Taffanel playing the flute. Exceptional in its writing, this work, only published in 1904, has a special place in the history of music and demonstrates a typically French style of writing, suggesting at times the wit of a Poulenc. Contrasted with the cheerful faster movements is the superb cantilena of the Andante, entrusted to the flute.

 

Denis Verroust

 

Marc Grauwels

Marc Grauwels is among the best know flautists in the world today. After completing his studies, he made his orchestral début in the Flanders Opera Orchestra. In 1976, he became solo piccolo in the Belgian National Opera Orchestra and in 1978, Principal Flautist in the Belgian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for ten years. He was a member of the World Orchestra under the baton of Carlo-Maria Giulini and subsequently developed a remarkably successful career as a soloist. Since 1985 he has taught at the Brussels Royal Conservatory Marc Grauwels has enjoyed a notable association with Nino Rota and with Astor Piazzolla who composed for him A History of the Tango. His dislike of traditional formal concerts has led him to some diversity in programming, prepared to alternate Piazzolla with Schubert and Mozart with Ravi Shankar. His outstanding success is attested by his minimum of a hundred concerts a year and some forty CD recordings.

 

Annie Lavoisier

Annie Lavoisier started studying the harp in Rheims, her birthplace. In Paris, she developed her contemporary and orchestral repertoire with Francis Pierre, while her meeting with the famous harpist Pierre James helped her to gain a new sound and expression for the harp. Annie Lavoisier has won many international competitions in France, Israel, Munich and the M.A. Cazala Contest. At the age of twenty, she was appointed a principal in the National Orchestra of Belgium. She is pursuing a career as a soloist and in several chamber music ensembles.

 

Claudi Arimany

Claudi Arimany began to study the flute under S. Gratacós and furthering his studies in France with Jean-Pierre Rampal, and in Switzerland with G. Sebok. He was awarded first prize by unanimous jury decision in 1982 at the Paris Conservatoire. His teachers were A. Marion and R. Guiot. Since then he has been extremely active as a solo performer giving concerts in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Great Britain, the United States and Russia, appearing with musicians and orchestras of marked distinction.

 

Orchestre de Chamhre de Waterloo

(Conductor: Ulysse Waterlot)

The Orchestre de Chambre de Waterloo sprang from along collaboratinn between its leader, Ulysse Waterlot, and the Pastoureaux, a group of young singers from Waterloo. Together they have recorded several compact discs mainly of religious music for choir and orchestra, the Nelson Mass by Haydn (1988), Mazart's Requiem (1990) and a disc of Christmas carols (1992). The orchestra is made up of young professional musicians, all graduates from different Belgian Royal Conservatories and has acquired a considerable reputation at home, which it has been able to develop further abroad.

 

Ulysse Waterlot

Ulysse Waterlot has led many orchestras in Belgium since the 1960s, and in 1975 began his career as a conductor with various Belgian and French orchestras. He first collaborated with Marc Grauwels and the Orchestre de Chambre de Waterloo in 1991. Ulysse Waterlot is also a professor at the Conservatoire Royal de Mons, where he conducts the Ensemble de Musique Contemporaine. As a composer, he has written a considerable amount of music and actually appeared in the rôle of conductor with the Maître de Musique José Van Dam in the film by Gerard Corbiau.


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