Tuesday 11 March 2014

Luminance - music for two flutes

Luminance - music for two flutes: Lisa Friend, Anna Stokes, Mark Kinkaid: Champs Hill Records
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Mar 5 2014
Star rating: 3.0

French influence in this disc of music for two flutes and piano 

This new disc from flautists Lisa Friend and Anna Stokes on Champs Hill Records is an attractive selection of French influenced music for two flutes and piano. The composers include the known such as Faure, Piazzolla and Saint-Saens, the lesser known like Chaminade and Ibert, and the relatively unknown such as Gaubert, Doppler, Hue and Andersen.

From the cover of this disc you could be forgiven for thinking that the programme was a light classical crossover one. With its soft focus image, all luxuriant hair and embonpoint, the cover does no favours to the performers. In fact as their introduction in the CD booklet explains, their selection of works explores a fascinating sequence of interlinking works for flutes and piano, very much with a French accent.

Ibert was a pupil of Faure, who in his turn was a pupil of Saint-Saens. Faure admired Hue's music, and Saint-Saens was a close friend of the flautist dedicatee of the pieces by Chaminade on the disc. Both solo flute pieces were competition / test pieces for the Paris Conservatoire where Faure, Saint-Saens, Gaubert, Chaminade, Hue, Ibert and Piazzola all either taught or studied.

They start with Medailles Antiques by Philippe Gaubert, principal flautist in a number of Paris orchestras and professor of flute at the Conservatoire. The two movement work was originally written for flute, violin and piano, here played in the performers own arrangement for two flutes and piano. The first movement, Nymphes a la Fontaine has great lyrical charm, whilst the second Modere vif et rythme has a perky Poulenc-like wit.

Astor Piazzolla studied with both Ginastera in Buenos Aires and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Oblivion is one of his best known works, here played in the performers own arrangemnt. The result has great melodic charm, though the tango rhythm seems rather far away at times.

Franz Doppler was a flautist who performed and taught in Budapest and Vienna. Amongst his many compositions for flute duo is his Andante and Rondo, probably written for himself and his brother, also a professional flautist, to play. The opening Andante has a rather elegant liveliness to it, with lovely intertwining lines. The Rondo is full of Hungarian gypsy hints, with an infectious fluent charm.

Cecile Chaminade is best known for her piano pieces. Her Concertino for flute and piano was written in 1902 as an examination piece for the Paris Conservatoire. Lisa Friend plays the solo flute part with fluent melodic charm and technical poise. I am not sure that arranging Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine for two flutes and piano is ideal, I do rather miss the depth of choral tone. But here Friend and Stokes turn in a performance notable for its sweet tone and lovely line.

Saint-Saens' Odalette dates from 1920, a very late work originally for flute and piano, here played in a version for two flutes and piano. It sounds as if the piece dates from 50 or more years earlier. The gently interwining flute lines are combined with livelier material. Georges Hue was a pupil of Faure and Franck. His Fantasie for flute and piano has Hungarian gypsy hints, and gives Anna Stokes a chance to shine in the solo role.

Jacques Ibert's Deux Interludes is another relatively late work, written in 1946 influenced rather by Debussy's instrumental sonatas. The meditative opening movement is followed by a lively, rather Spanish flavoured Allegro full off rather delightful melodic and harmonic twists.

Carl Joachim Anderson was a Danish flute virtuoso. Le Calme comes from his Trois Morceaux and is a beautifully crafted and rather evocative piece. The title is slightly deceptive as there are some technically demanding gusty moments in amongst the calm.

For the last piece on the disc we return to Doppler, with his Duettino. It is effectively a series of variations in Hungarian style, a delightfully fun way to end the recital.

Stokes and Friend are ably supported by Mark Kinkaid's sympathetic piano accompaniment. The CD booklet includes an informative article on the composers and their music.

The music on this disc has a great deal of fluent charm and receives performances of great elegance. Both Friend and Stokes play with a combination of technical facility and sweet tone. But I have to confess that for all the charm, the pieces are ones I would only wish to dip into.

Philippe Gaubert (1879 - 1941) Medailles Antiques [8.44]
Astor Piazzolla (1921 - 1992) Oblivion [3.41]
Franz Doppler (1821 - 1883) Andante and Rondo Op.25 [8.50]
Cecile Chaminade (1857 - 1944) Concertino for flute and piano [7.53]
Gabriel Faure (1845 - 1924) Cantique de Jean Racine [4.06]
Camille Saint-Saens (1835 - 1921) Odelette [6.41]
Georges Hue (1858 - 1948) Fantasie [6.54]
Jacques Ibert (1890 - 1962) Deux Interludes [6.54]
Joachim Anderson (1847 - 1909) Romance "Le Calme" [4.26]
Franz Doppler (1821 - 1883) Duettino [7.45]
Lisa Friend (flute)
Anna Stokes (flute)
Mark Kinkaid (piano)
Recorded 17 - 19 June 2013 in the Music Room, Champs Hill, Sussex
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