This enterprising and imaginative CD assembles works dedicated to Georges Barrère (1876–1944), one of the greatest flutists of all time. While only a teenager, he was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied with Paul Taffanel, and he was just 18 when he participated in the premiere of Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, playing the all-important solo in that work. After graduating from the Conservatoire, he played in the Concerts Colonne and at the Opéra. Then, in 1905, he came to New York City, and he was the New York Philharmonic’s first-chair flutist until 1928. Two years later, he joined the faculty at Juilliard. Barrère’s influence on flute-playing the world over, particularly in America,Read more is difficult to overstate.
A great instrumentalist naturally attracts composers—good, bad, and indifferent—who want to write music for him. All of the works on this CD were written (by good composers!) for Barrère between the years 1897 and 1905. Crystal’s booklet notes suggest that this is the first of two discs devoted to works that were dedicated to Barrère, whether or not he actually played them. According to annotator Nancy Toff, “In all, he presented more than 184 premieres, and 50 pieces were dedicated to him.” Magnifique, you might say, or, if you prefer, “magnificent.”
The works on this CD range from short works in the style of an encore (Les marionettes, a cute “polka rondeau” originally composed by Eugène Damaré [1840–1919] for piccolo and orchestra, played here in pianist Martin Amlin’s reduction for piccolo and piano) to Henry Woollett’s 25-minute Sonata, as serious a flute sonata as there ever was. Woollett (1864–1936) was a pupil of Massenet who in turn taught Caplet and Honegger. He is largely a forgotten composer, as are Albert Seitz (1872–1937), Eugène Lacroix (1858–1950), Augustin Lefort (1852–1925), and Philippe Gaubert (1879–1941). These works are enjoyable, albeit conservative and typical of their era, with predictable variations in style, depending on the age of composer. This CD, then, is an important addition to the flute discography.
Fortunately, Buyse is just the woman for this job. For many years active in the Boston Symphony and the Boston Pops, in 1993, she left those ensembles and began a solo career. She also teaches—most recently, at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Her own teachers included Jean-Pierre Rampal, Michel Debost, and Marcel Moyse, and her playing is very much in their vein, although not lacking an identity of its own. This, then, is an excellent match of flutist and repertoire. Amlin, a former pupil of Nadia Boulanger, also has been associated with the BSO and the Pops, and he is in sympathy with Buyse, providing her not just with accompaniment but also with artistic collaboration. In short, the unusual repertoire on this CD has been presented in the most favorable light. Buyse and Amlin confidently have the field to themselves. In fact, apparently only the Caplet, the Gaubert, and the Damaré have been recorded previously.
This is warmly recommended to anyone who enjoys the flute, and who is looking for something a little out of the way, but not necessarily strange.