Philippe Gaubert
Three Sonatas for flute and piano
Piece Romantique
Kathryn Thomas (flute)
Richard Shaw (piano)
with Phoebe Scott (cello)
CD No: DXL 923
Reviewed: February 2001
This music is saturated in the elegance and lyrical grace that we recognise as French. Long, sensuous lines are gratefully received by the ears; the heart responds to the deeper vein of expression that French composers are so adept at side-stepping to – an emotional sleight of hand which transforms innocence to something darker, more experienced. A relaxed urbanity informs Gaubert’s music, as charming as a spring day, but there will an aside, a confidence shared, en route.
Faure is an obvious counterpart but Gaubert is not as varied - his sonatas’ nine movements tend to merge, however attractively, into one. Continuous listening also tires of the civility of Gaubert’s expression and glinting arabesques. Play one sonata and have a break would be my suggestion. But then the CD could be better laid out: starting with Madrigal, ending with Orientale (pleasing miniatures that do not suggest they belong – as the sonata-movements do – to a bigger design), the sonatas themselves would benefit from being separated by the Aquarelles – three ’pictures’ – and Piece Romantique because of the additional timbre of a cello, which gives Gaubert not only an extra part but widens his creativity.
As for Gaubert himself: he was born in 1879, died in 1941, was a highly regarded flautist (his writing for the instrument is assured and idiomatic) and developed parallel careers as a composer and conductor; as the latter he made a number of recordings including the Second Daphnis Suite with Walter Straram’s Orchestra in 1930 and Saint-Saens’s Second Concerto with Rubinstein in 1939.
As to this CD, the recording – dry and forward – is well balanced and truthful (save for a suggestion of an edit at 2’ 41" in track 5, which headphone listening reveals as no more than a harmonic peculiarity) and the performances are sympathetic and shapely. I did wonder if Kathryn Thomas could have coloured her playing more (to match Richard Shaw’s more vivid response) – which might be another way of saying that the sonatas need a bit more help to keep them interesting – but the music is worthy of advocacy and it’s good to find these skilled musicians exploring the byways of their repertoire.
Flute-fanciers and francophiles needn’t hesitate. Could Deux-Elles please remember to include track timings in its documentation?


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