20th Century French Flute Concertos
Works by Damase, Françaix, Ibert & Rivier
Ransom Wilson (flute); BBC Concert Orchestra/Perry So
Nimbus Alliance NI 6375 63:47 mins
The flute repertoire underwent thrilling development in mid-century France, but while Ravel and Poulenc became establishment stalwarts many other highly accomplished composers remain hidden in the shadows. American flautist-conductor Ransom Wilson’s latest addition to his on-going solo series for Nimbus features some of these lesser-known figures, with a focus on concertos. Nadia Boulanger protégé Jean Françaix’s Impromptu for flute and strings (1983) is an unashamedly melodic romp stuffed full of spiralling motifs that Wilson performs with an enviable lightness. The close miking means some key slapping is heard (for example in the Scherzando) but this only adds to the sense of intimacy.
Jean Rivier’s Concerto for flute and strings and Jean-Michel Damase’s Serenade, both written in 1956 for Jean-Pierre Rampal (1922-2000), plumb greater emotional depths, yet the mishmash of styles, particularly in the Serenade, requires flexibility; Wilson is fleet-tongued throughout. Jacques Ibert’s Concerto (1933) is better known, and Wilson’s recording holds its own against the likes of Emmanuel Pahud (EMI, 2003). Incidentally this disc would surely have been an ideal opportunity to showcase the featured composers’ colleague Cécile Chaminade – her Concertino would have fitted neatly in to this programme.