Notes and Editorial Reviews
Although Mozart described the flute as "an instrument I cannot bear" early in 1778 and just before composing his G major Flute Concerto for the Dutch amateur Ferdinand Dejean, he was incapable of writing poor music and there emerged a charming work, one by no means without depth. This is an admirable performance by Susan Palma, a remarkably gifted player who is also a member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, a conductorless ensemble of 24 players who shape the music with skill and unanimity (the quality of their phrasing is remarkable) so that all is alert, lithe and yet sensitive. Palma's tone is liquid and bright, with fine tonal nuances, and her cadenzas are no less well imagined.
The Concerto for flute and harp
was written for the flute-playing Count de Guines to play with his harpist daughter, and combines these two beautiful instruments to fine effect; again the soloists are highly skilled and, beyond that, their playing is nicely matched tonally and stylistically. Indeed, Palma is as delightful as in the other work and the spacious Andante in C major that separates the two concertos, while Nancy Allen makes an exquisite sound and also articulates more clearly than many other harpists. The attractive cadenzas are by Palma and Bernard Rose. The balance between the soloists and the orchestra is natural and the recording from New York's State University has a very pleasing sound.
The new Hyperion issue with the same programme has been unlucky to appear at the same time as the one from DG, and I cannot help feeling that while this is fresh and fluent playing it is distinctly more ordinary. Thus, where in the Palma/Orpheus CO performance the Allegro maestoso first movement of the G major Flute Concerto has weight and (above all) tonal shape, here it merely bustles along. In a concert this would be perfectly acceptable, but the music's full stature is not revealed and Marc Grauwels's cadenza seems conventional too, as well as suffering from the excessive echo of the recording location in Quebec. The slow movement is nicely played, but strikes me as merely pleasing where the DG account is beautiful—the same goes for the C major Andante, K315—and it is only in the Minuet-Finale that the deft performance of the soloist and the 18 players of the Violons du Roy compares in quality. (The booklet says that they number "fifteen or so" but the photo of this youthful Quebecois group together with their conductor shows the larger figure, and of course they are not just violins but an orchestra of strings and four wind.) The Flute and Harp Concerto begins with a rather brisk Allegro here; it is agreeable enough and with a well-played cadenza by Marius Flothuis, but I prefer the more spacious and sensitive playing of the DG version and especially in the Andantino, where I also look for a more imaginative orchestral contribution. Again, while Giselle Herbert is a skilful and thoughtful player, I hear these qualities in still greater measure from Nancy Allen.
Space forbids more than a mention of the most obvious comparative version. The same programme on Philips is well enough played by Irena Grafenauer and Maria Graf with the ASMF under Sir Neville Marriner, but although the Flute and Harp Concerto is well done, in the Flute Concerto Grafenauer is at times effortful and her cadenzas are rather stilted, while the recording of the solo is close with some distracting audible breathing. At present there is no doubt that the new DG issue leads the field.
-- Gramophone [3/1990]
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