Ravel Chansons Madecasses

Despite the distinguished contributions of singer, cellist and pianist, this disc quite rightly focuses on the extraordinary flute-playing of Emmanuel Pahud

Author: 
Michael Oliver

Ravel Chansons Madecasses

  • Syrinx
  • Chansons de Bilitis
  • (La) Plus que lente
  • (3) Chansons madécasses
  • Sonata for Flute and Piano

Pahud's range of tone colour is amazing - no one listening to the Prokofiev Sonata is likely to feel short-changed by not hearing it in its familiar violin transcription, and in 'Aoua!', the central song of Ravel's Chansons madecasses, Pahud gets closer than most flautists to playing, as the composer directs, 'like a trumpet'. His dynamic range is still more startling, if anything (it isn't often that I've had to get up to adjust the volume control during a flute recital) but there is never any sense of him extending the instrument beyond its nature, of forcing it to do un-flute-like things.
Katarina Karneus, by the way, whose clean French diction and wide range are so well suited to the Ravel (the Chansons madecasses ideally demand a mezzo who is also a soprano, or vice versa) is not heard elsewhere in this collection. The Chansons de Bilitis recorded here are not Debussy's set of three songs nor, strictly speaking, his incidental music for a stage entertainment based on Pierre Louys's poems. It is the Six epigraphes antiques (for piano duet or two pianos) that Debussy based on that stage music which have been transcribed for flute and piano by Karl Lenski. The flute is either evoked or deliberately imitated throughout the Epigraphes (the stage music was scored for two flutes with harps and celeste) and it seems, especially when played this beautifully, a permissible and appropriate addition to the flautist's repertoire. To which the Prokofiev Sonata is, of course, central, and Pahud gives it a big, bold and vivid reading, but with nothing overstated in the lyrical dialogues of the opening movement or the warmly expressive Andante. The recording is a little close but richly colourful.'

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