Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
La Belle Époque encompasses a time period between the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and the outbreak of World War I (1914) when the French composers represented on this delightful release came into their own, writing works that largely were characterized by clear-cut and concise forms, textural transparency, melodic charm, and just about everything that was not thick, long-winded, and laden with philosophical baggage. In other words, not German!
Actually, Charles-Marie Widor tended to be more Germanic when writing organ symphonies than in the playful virtuosity of his four-movement Suite Op. 34. Jules Mouquet’s Op. 15 salvo sounds exactly like what you’d expect from a work entitled La flute de Pan. Fauré’s Morceau de concours and Op. 70 Fantasie typify this composer’s harmonic subtlety and refinement. The presto section of Enescu’s piece features repeated notes and double-tonguing passages that scamper on the surface yet reveal darker undercurrents.
If I seem to be concentrating on the compositions more than the performances, it’s simply because Robert Langevin’s extraordinary flute virtuosity bypasses the instrument in direct line to the music. His intonation is dead center, his phrasing and articulation abound with variety, and he employs vibrato with the utmost discretion and taste.
The easy elegance he brings to the Gaubert pieces makes these works sound like deep masterpieces rather than “flute fluff”. His prodigious breath control and sustained lightness of tone lifts Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun from the forest to the clouds, in a manner of speaking. Langevin’s stellar rendition of Debussy’s unaccompanied Syrinx matches the fluid perfection of Doriot Anthony Dwyer’s reference DG recording, in contrast to Emmanuel Pahud’s affectionate lingering. Margaret Kampmeier’s alert and sensitive support is what you’d expect from one of the best collaborative pianists on Planet Earth. A must-have for flute fans and Francophiles alike.
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Recording Details:Album Title: Paris: La Belle Époque
Reference Recording: None for this collection
CHARLES-MARIE WIDOR: Suite Op. 34
JULES MOUQUET: La flute de Pan Op. 15
GABRIEL FAURÉ: Fantasie Op. 70; Morceau de concours
GEORGES ENESCU: Cantabile et presto
PHILIPPE GAUBERT: Nocturne et allegro scherzando; Fantasie; Madrigal
CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (arranged by Gustave Samazeuilh); Syrinx
- Robert Langevin (flute); Margaret Kampmeier (piano)
- Bridge - 9555