DEVIENNE Flute Concertos Nos 5 - 8
Pity François Devienne, who died in the Charenton asylum of derangement brought about (according to a sympathetic pupil) ‘by the various sorrows which he had experienced during the Revolution’. It’s startling to think that he wrote the graceful and sunny Flute Concerto No 6 in Paris during the Terror of 1793 94. Devienne’s musical voice is unambiguously ancien régime. Only occasionally do these four concertos hint at a Romantic future: in the Rossini-like crescendos of the E minor Concerto No 7, say, or when (as in the finale of Concerto No 5) a bit of whirligig solo passagework spins towards fantaisie brillante territory.
Patrick Gallois is at his most impressive in these passages: he does tongue-twisting display with formidable clarity. Elsewhere, on this second disc in Naxos’s Devienne cycle, he’s less persuasive. As both soloist and director, he benefits from the clear, vibrato-light playing of the (modern-instrument) Swedish Chamber Orchestra. But he leans towards brisk tempos; and in the busier solo passages, these performances can feel hurried, as if Gallois and his orchestra are starting to push each other beyond what’s comfortable or expressive. Phrasing becomes choppy and orchestral chords land heavily.
Gallois also has a tendency, on sustained notes, to let his sound coarsen and swell; and the orchestral tuttis, too, could accommodate more characterisation, more poise, perhaps just more love. There’s a slight feeling here of a group of musicians simply getting through the notes – and although Devienne writes a lot of notes, it’s not for want of anything to say. András Adorján on Tudor has the benefit of a conductor, and for my money makes a more engaging case for this far from negligible music.