Franaix: Quintet No. 1 for flute, string trio & harp; Quintet No. 2 for flute, string trio & harp; Clarinet Quintet; 5 piccoli duetti

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COMPOSERS: Franaix
LABELS: ASV
WORKS: Quintet No. 1 for flute, string trio & harp; Quintet No. 2 for flute, string trio & harp; Clarinet Quintet; 5 piccoli duetti
PERFORMER: Mobius
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1090
You can get hooked on Jean Françaix’s alternately placid and volcanic temperament (the words are his own). Anybody for whom the Gaudier Ensemble’s fine selection on Hyperion did the trick will find Mobius an inviting prospect. True, they both include the Clarinet Quintet, but this is such a definitive work that it’s worth the extra angle. Until you know the composer’s wiles you will not believe how deftly he weaves together, in just a few minutes, the rapturous opening music and the slightly absurd, tripping allegro that interrupts it.

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The new issue’s main focus is the harp. Françaix wrote one quintet with flute and strings at 22, another at 77. You’d never know. The later work is more expansive and relaxed, more virtuosic and fuller-textured: here he ingeniously superimposes breezy and soulful themes, like Franck in his symphony, whereas before he polarised moods into separate, epigrammatic movements. But the full range of expression is there from the start.

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Five miniatures for flute and harp from 1975 pick up the earlier witty brevity. Starters with Françaix should go for the Gaudier’s varied repertoire, but Mobius – a British-based group of young international players – deliver the goods with energy, grace and lyrical feeling. Robert Maycock