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David Blomenberg
MusicWeb International, January 2007

This is the third Naxos volume Fenwick Smith and Sally Pinkas have recorded of Gaubert’s flute music. The previous volumes have been reviewed on this site and contain a good deal of the biographical detail necessary to acquaint one with the life of the composer, so I’ll stick to the music. As mentioned in these reviews, the shadow of Debussy looms heavily over these works, which is not necessarily a negative dependence. The opening strains of Soir sur la plaine of the Deux esquisses that open this disc practically flash a neon sign pointing to Prélude a l’après-midi d’un faune. After this, the piece opens up to a beautifully expressive theme narrated by the flute and supported by the piano. The works here aren’t as lushly lovely as those in Volume 1 of this series but are pleasant nonetheless. The opening Deux Esquisses fit well into the infatuation that Europe had at the time with the East, with the heavily romanticised versions of Oriental and Middle Eastern melodies and tonalities. The following Nocturne et Allegro brings us back from faraway lands and begins with a gorgeous introduction in the flute’s lower register, before moving into a more proclamatory range. The balance between Pinkas and Smith is precise and wonderfully well-maintained. The sound is soothing and less brassy than, for example, that on Cantilena with Laurel Zucker, which I reviewed earlier. The following Sicilienne is a short, flowing piece in triple meter that has an element, perhaps, of Brahms in his lighter moments, serving as an interlude of sorts before the longer Romance of 1905, which extends itself gracefully, moving without effort through its motivic material. The second Romance, composed in 1908 is a much shorter statement, with not nearly the length of span that the earlier piece has but certainly has its appeal. Rather than the larger statement that the earlier Romance was, this is a pleasant salon work that nevertheless contains substance — the development section around 2:00 shows that this is more than a mere off-the-cuff piece. Of the remaining works, the Fantaisie has special appeal. Again, the soundworld is that of Debussy — Afternoon of a Faun haunts this piece as it does the first work on this disc. The material develops into something more than pastiche, though, with a heartfelt middle section, played beautifully and with languid restraint by Smith and Pinkas. What may show to be of greatest interest to many are the transcriptions of works of other composers for flute and piano. Some of them seem a touch on the utilitarian side, such as the first included here, a transcription from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Boccherini’s minuet from the Quintet in E receives a pleasant treatment as the third of the transcriptions included here. Little information regarding these transcriptions is included in the liner-notes, but these remain lovely additions to flute repertoire of composers who, in Gaubert’s time, languished in obscurity. This third disc continues the excellent standard of recording that the earlier volumes set. Fans of Romantic era flute music need not hesitate to add this disc to their collections, and opera fans might also risk a gamble regarding the transcriptions, which have their world premiere recording here.

American Record Guide, October 2006

This is another in a series covering the entire output of French flutist Philippe Gaubert (Jan/Feb 2005). I have praised the sensuous, effortless musicality of Fenwick Smith. Even in the showy, virtuosic display pieces (e.g. the Nocturne et Allegro) Smith plays with remark­able grace and control. never slipping into the more bombastic, heavy style with wide vibrato and dense, dark tone favored by many Ameri­can flutists. This is a real treat; I wish more flutists used this as a model. Everything about this is commendable, including the well-written notes.

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