About this Recording
8.555977 - Flute Concertos (Romantic)

Romantic Flute Concertos

Romantic Flute Concertos


France and the flute are inseparably associated. The connection is nothing new, but one with clear historical roots. It was at the beginning of the eighteenth Century that nearly all instruments began to undergo rapid technical development. This set in train an evolution that was to continue well into the next century, the technical changes leading to a marked increase in expressive potential. Instrumental music naturally underwent a similar development.


From the beginning, France revealed a special interest in wind instruments, with a marked preference for the flute, which explains why there are so many good French compositions for the instrument. Notation in particular became highly developed in and around Paris. The tradition was built on firm foundations. The

Paris Conservatoire had, from its beginnings in the days of the French Revolution, a strong tradition of flute classes, with teachers whose names are still familiar. Even today, we can still speak of a French flute school of composition and performance, analogous to the French violin school that assumed its first great importance in the nineteenth century.


It is not at all difficult to draw up an impressive list of teachers, composers, methods, practice pieces and their associated virtuosi, all from the French capital. Two sets of circumstances have further contributed to the particular popularity of the flute in France. First, there was the social background. The end of the nineteenth Century in France was characterized by an ebullient and perhaps decadent nightlife. Numerous stories and paintings reflect the cheerful atmosphere of parties and concert-rooms where the men and women might flirt by the light of the new electric lamps, while an excellent but discrete orchestra played popular medleys of polkas and waltzes. In these, the flute, and the smaller and more penetrating piccolo, played an important part. Together with this there grew up the more sophisticated festival, opera, casino and spa orchestras, employing well known and highly skilled flautists. The latter took the opportunity of demonstrating their talent and skill to their audience through a large number of special compositions for the flute. The musical quality of such exhibition pieces was sometimes doubtful, but there was compensation for this in a second element, the privileged position of the flute. Recognised great composers like Faure, Saint-Saens and Ravel also greatly appreciated the flute's technical and expressive possibilities. It therefore comes as no surprise to find in the titles and musical content of their work precisely those elements for which the flute is best known, the bucolic or pastoral, programmatic, virtuoso, melodious and melancholic. All these elements are represented in the present collection of brilliant French flute music, with its associated interesting contributions from the similarly valued oboe and clarinet.


Marc Grauwels


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