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Gouvy: Serenades For Flute And Strings / Bronnimann, Kleiser, Emmert

Gouvy / Broennimann / Kreisler Quartet / Emmert
Release Date: 05/28/2013 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 185   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Louis Théodore Gouvy
Performer:  Ilka EmmertMarkus BronnimannMichael Kleiser
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kreisler String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GOUVY Sérénades: No. 1 in G; 1 No. 2 in F; 1 Op. post. in d 1. Introduction et Polonaise 2. Danse suédoise 2 Markus Brönnimann (fl); 1 Kreisler Qt; 1 Ilka Emmert Read more (db); 2 Michael Kleiser (pn) TOCCATA 0185 (61:42)

As regular readers of this magazine will know, I am an ardent advocate of the music of Louis Théodore Gouvy (1819-1898), an enthusiasm I share with past and present Fanfare reviewers Barry Brenesal, Jerry Dubins, David Johnson, John W. Lambert, Robert McColley, and Peter J. Rabinowitz. The virtual consensus across the board is that Gouvy was a significant composer of the Romantic era who wrote music of considerable substance, which has until recently suffered unjust neglect. At this point, there are now a dozen or so CD sets in print of Gouvy’s compositions, with a few others out of print, devoted primarily to his symphonic works, large-scale choral pieces (secular oratorios and a Requiem), and chamber music, plus one disc apiece of his chansons and his piano music for four hands. I don’t know if this Gouvy renaissance on recordings has led yet to an increase in concert performances—I’ve not seen any myself—but it certainly provides hope for the future, and in the meantime grants a boon to music lovers for private enjoyment.

The present disc adds to our knowledge of Gouvy’s chamber works, with the world premiere recordings of five pieces for flute. (A sixth piece, the Sérénade vénitienne for flute, viola, and harp, was issued in 1999 on a Calliope CD.) All of them date from later in Gouvy’s life: the Danse suédoise from 1879, the Introduction et Polonaise from 1890, and the three sérénades for flute and string quintet (which all add a double-bass to the standard string quartet) from 1888, 1889, and 1891 respectively. The first two pieces are adaptations of movements from other works: the Danse from the op. 71 Octet, and the Introduction from the op. 83 Ghiribizzi for piano duet. The one-movement op. post. Sérénade is probably a torso of a planned larger work that was never completed; as it is, one four-page folio is missing from the surviving unpublished manuscript, but musicologist and Gouvy scholar Oliver Schmitt was able to reconstruct that material from a surviving adaptation for piano duet. While the excellent booklet notes by Schmitt (which include actual musical passages from the scores, a most commendable practice that seems to be all but extinct) do not mention an impetus for the composition of any of the other works, the Sérénade No. 1 was commissioned by the Philharmonic Club of New York, an indication of the international reputation that Gouvy once had before fading into total obscurity immediately upon his death.

While Toccata is to be commended for adding to the Gouvy discography, so far as repertoire is concerned this is definitely minor rather than major Gouvy. All of the pieces are thoroughly charming divertissements with appealing melodies and formal elegance, but none is of great significance. The instrumentalists (who have nice color photos featured on the inside face of the back tray card) are uniformly excellent and play these works with all the charm and gracefulness one could ask for. The recorded sound is ideal, with just the right perspective and balance and an inviting degree of warmth, and as previously mentioned the program notes are outstanding. While this is not an essential acquisition, lovers of Gouvy or of chamber music for flute should find this disc quite appealing, and it is recommended accordingly.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

Sérénades (3) for Flute and String Quintet by Louis Théodore Gouvy
Performer:  Ilka Emmert (Double Bass), Markus Bronnimann (Flute)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kreisler String Quartet
Introduction and Polonaise by Louis Théodore Gouvy
Performer:  Markus Bronnimann (Flute)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kreisler String Quartet
Danse suédoise by Louis Théodore Gouvy
Performer:  Markus Bronnimann (Flute), Michael Kleiser (Piano)

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