Faure/Widor/Debussy

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Faure/Widor/Debussy
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Sonata in A (transcr. flute); Flute Suite, Op. 34; Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune; La plus que lente (transcr. flute)
PERFORMER: James Galway (flute); Christopher O’Riley (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68351 2 DDD
It seems odd, when the flute repertoire is so strong in French music, to go making more. Yet while this collection is hard to recommend in the abstract, as a recital programme it works fairly well.

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The curiosities are gathered around Widor’s unfamiliar Suite, real flute music and all the better for it. Lines lie easily, the simpler piano textures support them clearly, and Galway is in fine form. Each movement proceeds pleasantly enough, until an unpredictable eruption gives it real character – a soaring phrase, or a florid operatic cadenza.

The Fauré gets off to a stop-go start. This is the trickiest movement, as the flute can’t supply as much dynamism as the work’s original violin. Things get better, with the subsequent preponderance of lyrical music, and the scherzo bubbles and thrives on rhythmic verve.

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It loses less than Debussy’s L’après-midi. Wonderful as it is to hear Galway play that first phrase, the flute will keep joining in where it doesn’t belong. The music becomes a sort of endless accompanied tune, so rich (and yet still monochrome) that it is quite exhausting. The less complex keyboard pieces work better. Robert Maycock