Taffanel: operatic fantasies
Paul Taffanel was the leading flute-player of France in the later nineteenth century; almost automatically this made him professor of the flute at the Paris Conservatoire. Among Taffanel's pupil was William Bennett. Thus, so far as continuity of tradition is concerned Bennett must be the right soloist for these fantasies, history declares; so far as the beauty of the playing is concerned he must also be the right soloist, the listener's ear declares.
On the quality of the music concerned there will be more scope for different opinions; and indeed there have been different reactions to it over the years. Once, with piano, they were just the ticket for private, salon-type performances; later they became favourite practice pieces, no doubt played unaccompanied from the final pages of flute tutors; today they are now offered again for listeners to enjoy in their homes.
Any listener ready to give them a go can surely have no better opportunity than this; for Bennett is afforded equally the advantages of splendid accompanying and splendid recording. My own favourite fantasy turns out to be that of the Thomas Mignon; the familiar tunes not only give pleasure of recognition but are greatly agreeable ones to start with. Thomas's most serious Francoise de Rimini (he had Dante's Inferno in mind, not today's bathing beaches) is much less familiar, and the opera has of course also been less successful on the stage. So too the Jean de Nivelle of Delibes; if you have never heard of this before that makes two of us. Der Freischutz, though we have all heard of, and know at least some of the tunes; yet not all of them seem entirely suitable music for the particular use to which they are put.
An admirable record. One mild snag, one seemingly becoming more prevalent: Edward Blakeman's informative sleeve-note places the recorded order of the fantasies differently from the record itself.'