Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Laura Rónai
Fanfare, April 2007

"The Reinecke works for flute hold a peculiar position in the repertoire. They are like a musical platypus, not quite modem, not entirely 19th century. If Reinecke had written his œuvre just two decades earlier, he would certainly occupy a better position in the music pantheon. As it is, in a century when audiences were already starting to worship Debussy, Ravel, and Wagner, his style was deemed old-fashioned and expendable. He was better known as a professor who had among his students such celebrities as Edvard Grieg, Leoš Janáček, Isaac Albeniz, Felix Weingartner, and Max Bruch, among many others. Still, his sonata Undine, composed in 1882, and the Flute Concerto, from 1908, are extremely popular among flutists and are now considered standard repertoire in any conservatory in the world. For those who cannot bear to play the Mozart concertos once again, yet consider that Takemitsu is too off-putting, for those who wish Brahms had written a flute concerto (don't we all?), Reinecke offers a very good alternative.

In the case of the harp, an instrument with an even smaller choice of works than the flute, the concerto recorded here is equally valuable. Joining these two works in one CD is a great idea, made even better by a very endearing detail: flutist Gallois conducts the Harp Concerto, while harpist Pierre conducts the flute pieces. Both do their jobs very well, and this CD is certainly worth its price. Besides, the Ballade is added to the lot, making it a perfect package.

Reinecke's music is unashamedly romantic, with wonderful sweeping gestures, bravura passages, striking orchestral writing, and singable melodies that stick to one's mind for a long time. Gallois and Pierre are both first-class musicians, with respectable musical careers, and they have worked together often before. This close collaboration is easily perceived, and works in favor of the music all the time. Also, contrary to most recordings of concertos, the solo instruments are quite realistically rendered (not artificially enhanced to overpower the orchestra), and their sound blends with the orchestra in a natural and pleasing way. And because the whole conception does not emphasize the soloist in detriment of the ensemble, the orchestra does not need to wait for the tuttis to play to their heart's content, nd they seem to enjoy the chance to truly interact with the soloists, and not being a mere backdrop for their prowess.

Gallois often breathes in strange places-but that is a quality, not a defect. He surprises the listener with the unusual punctuation, and uses it to give new meaning to familiar phrases. His sound is mellow and pure. Pierre reaches the same high level in his playing, with impressive technique and bouncy sound. In fact, they are both so outstanding that I was a bit disappointed that they were not entirely able to shed their modem inhibitions. Still, this is a very good version of these works, one that deserves to be heard and praised."

David Hurwitz, January 2007

It's hard to believe that Carl Reinecke lived until 1910 (he was born in 1824), writing these two works for flute just a couple of years before his death. Musically speaking he never ventured beyond Mendelssohn and Schumann, but from our vantage point nearly a century later that hardly matters. Without doubt he was a master craftsman, and his Harp Concerto quite possibly is the finest in the repertoire for the instrument. It's beautifully played here by Fabrice Pierre, with refulgent tone, plenty of lively character, and an excellent accompaniment from the Swedish Chamber Orchestra under Patrick Gallois. The Finale-Scherzo is particularly delicious. Pierre takes over the conductor's job for the two flute pieces, which are equally charming and puzzlingly neglected on disc. Gallois certainly has the chops, or should I say "the lips" for them, although his tone is a touch breathier than I prefer. Still, with fine sonics, and at a very attractive price, this disc is a winner.

Michael Cookson
MusicWeb International, October 2006

I was not too familiar with the name of Carl Reinecke before receiving this release but I did remember that he was the teacher of several composers that were well known to me. These included, most notably: Max Bruch; Edvard Grieg; Emil von Rezniček; Christian Sinding; Arthur Sullivan; Charles Villiers Stanford; Leos Janácek; Frederick Delius; Max Bruch; Edvard Grieg; Johan Svendsen; Isaac Albéniz and Felix Weingartner.

Reinecke was born in the town of Altona on the River Elbe, then an important harbour town in Denmark, but now a district of the German city of Hamburg. The year of Reinecke’s birth 1824 is significant in music history in that it is same birth year as Bruckner and Smetana. I am pleased that Naxos with this issue has provided me with opportunity to hear three concertante scores from this versatile composer who has experienced years of virtual neglect. It is also gratifying that Naxos has chosen as soloists the renowned French performers and conductors, flautist Patrick Gallois and harpist Fabrice Pierre.

A quick check on Reinecke’s career revealed that he was a child prodigy on the piano, also played the violin and in addition to performing he began composing at an early age. He embarked on his first concert tour in 1843 and three years later was appointed as Pianist to the Danish Court, where he remained until 1848. In 1860 he moved to Leipzig in Germany, where he conducted the Gewandhaus concerts until 1895 and taught composition at the Conservatory until 1902. One of his most notable conducting accomplishments came in 1869 when he was entrusted with the first performance of Brahms’s German Requiem.

Reinecke’s international career as conductor, accompanist, teacher and composer gave him an esteemed reputation in his day that was in some ways on the same level as that of Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt. He was a prolific composer writing over three hundred works in most genres. In addition to many piano works and much chamber music I noticed three symphonies; four piano concertos, which is not surprising owing to his prowess on the instrument, and also grand and comic operas. He was exceptionally well connected having met Franz Liszt; Hector Berlioz; Felix Mendelssohn; Robert and Clara Schumann; Niels Gade; Ferdinand Hiller and Johannes Brahms.

For many years the Reinecke works that were most likely to be encountered were the Flute Sonata in E major, Op. 167 ‘Undine’ and his Flute Concerto in D major, Op. 283 but now a variety of his scores have been recorded joining the ever-expanding record catalogues.

The opening work on this release is the Harp Concerto, Op. 182. Composed by Reinecke in 1884 and cast in three movements it is scored for harp with pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and four French horns, timpani and strings.

The soloist is Fabrice Pierre who acquits himself superbly. In every respect his performance feels well nigh perfect. He gives a happy and carefree reading of the opening movement allegro moderato where Reinecke could easily have been reminiscing about a walking expedition in the Bavarian mountains. In Pierre’s hands the glorious adagio is lyrical and heartfelt. In addition to the harp part there is considerable employment given to the strings in this movement. The expert soloist provides a swift pace in the scherzo-finale, convincingly and confidently drawing the listener into Reinecke’s sound world. The dancing figures between 3.45-4.04 reminded me of a Mendelssohnian world of fairytale enchantment. Throughout the score orchestra and conductor provide the soloist with thoroughly sympathetic support.

I am extremely pleased with this Naxos account, however, I have been hearing excellent reports of advance copies of a forthcoming rival version of the Harp Concerto which may be worth investigating. The performers are harpists Emmanuel Ceysson and Xavier de Maistre with the Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra/Hannu Lintu on the Swiss label Claves CD 50-2607. The coupling is Albert Zabel’s Concerto for Harp and Orchestra in C Minor, Op. 35 and Parish-Alvars’s Concerto for 2 Harps and Orchestra in D Minor, Op. 91.

The three movement Flute Concerto, Op. 283 dates from 1908 and is one of Reinecke’s final compositions. Reinecke orchestrated the concerto for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, four French horns, timpani, assorted percussion and strings. We are told in the accompanying notes that, “There exist various discrepancies between the orchestral and solo scores of this work. The version recorded on this CD is Patrick Gallois’ own adaptation, which has its basis in both versions.”

Probably composed in 1908 the Ballade for flute and orchestra, Op. 288 is another late work. In Keith Anderson’s view the single movement score, “uses a title that suggests, at least, literary content.” For these performances of the Flute Concerto and the Ballade the soloist and conductor change places from the opening work, with Patrick Gallois now as flute soloist.

The flute is extremely busy in the opening movement of the Flute Concerto where Gallois is controlled and thoughtful. In this allegro movement in addition to the harp part Reinecke has written a significant role for the brass. The slow movement is generally relaxed with the expressive Gallois almost continually employed, the flute line floating gracefully through the often dense orchestration. In the finale: moderato, a movement with considerable virtuoso display, the soloist Gallois is excitable and high-spirited taking the demands easily in his stride. With the ten minute long Ballade for flute and orchestra Gallois provides a sulky and despondent mood in Reinecke’s robust and richly dark orchestral textures. I was impressed with the way Gallois, at point 3:22, expertly switches the atmosphere to one of spirited child-like excitement. In both the Flute Concerto and the Ballade Gallois is given lively and detailed support orchestra and conductor.

The recorded sound from the Örebro Concert Hall in Sweden is first class and I was especially pleased by the clarity and balance provided by Naxos engineer Sean Lewis. The annotation from Keith Anderson is to a high standard, reasonably concise and highly informative. The playing time of fifty-five minutes is not over-generous but here the quality of the performances take precedence. This is rewarding if little known late-Romantic music that is well worth exploring. I believe the Harp Concerto to be a major work and this Naxos release is a gem waiting to be unearthed.

Raymond J Walker
MusicWeb International, September 2006

This is an interesting rarity that deserves some attention.

Reinecke was the son of a self-taught musician and had toured the continent as a pianist before settling down to composition. He was a contemporary of Mendelssohn and the Schumanns at Leipzig Conservatoire, and had Svendsen, Sullivan and Grieg as pupils. His concert work involved tours to England, Scandinavia and Russia where he, no doubt, exposed the concertgoers to his works. It is surprising to consider therefore that, despite all his travelling publicity, his reputation as composer wasn't more widely respected, but then even this prolific composer would have been overshadowed by the competition of much stronger talent found around him at the time.

The Harp Concerto is lightly orchestrated and opens in a sombre mood that gives no hint of the brighter horizons that later become apparent - after two minutes in. A meandering Allegro moderato does not immediately stamp an identity on the character of the work. From the second movement onwards, however, the composer settles down with good inspiration and we are aware of a pleasant work in the romantic vein. The hymn-like Adagio sets a sedate pace. Particularly attractive is the Scherzo-Finale, where short brass fanfares herald a gathering strength which carries overtones of Mendelssohn. Here virtuosic elements are underplayed in the scoring of the coda which causes the work to end without much impact. With unusual direction by the harpist, the excellent soloist and orchestra are well focused: the performance is good. Pierre is Harp professor at Lyon Conservatoire and has produced prize-winning performances.

The Flute Concerto is a much more secure work. The flute has a dominating presence from the outset, the melody lines are stronger and the concerto's colours are better layered. Twenty-four years after his Harp concerto, one is aware of Reinecke's greater maturity, characterized by a more florid approach. A competent opening movement holds the listener's attention. Continuity in the Lento e mesto is provided by heavy 'footsteps' delivered by the double-basses. This provides the underlying rhythm to an elegant flute line, later enhanced by the remainder of the strings. Carrying a hint of the second movement's rhythm, the Finale: Moderato is particularly haunting with a charming flute melody. This is another good performance by the soloist. Gallois has developed an international conducting career after forming his own Paris-based orchestra. From 2003 he has been Musical Director of the Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä.

Unfortunately the Ballade is not particularly inspired and lacks a robust theme for it to be memorable.

The recordings are adequate, yet in the second concerto the flute is not brought forward enough: its ambience is rather thin and could have benefited from additional reverberation. Noticing this, I went back to the Harp concerto and felt the same was true, but to a lesser extent. Although prominently focused the harp might have benefited if given a wider ambience.

Adequate notes on the composer's background and concertos by Keith Anderson are provided in English, German and French. Detailed biographies are included for the two soloist conductors.

BBC Music Magazine, July 2006

The two concertos on this disc are characterized by melodic fluency and colourful orchestration. Virtuoso performances by Fabrice Pierre and Patrick Gallois whose performances have already been noted as having “infectious bounce.”

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group