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GAUBERT: Music for Flute 3

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Philippe Gaubert (1879 - 1941)

Complete Works for Flute, Volume 3

Philippe Gaubert was among the most prominent Frenchmusicians of the period between the two world wars.

After a distinguished career as flautist with the ParisOpera, he received in 1919, at the age of forty, threeappointments that catapulted him into the highestechelons of French musical life, with appointments asprofessor of flute at the Paris Conservatoire, principalconductor of the Paris Opera, and principal conductor ofthe Societe des Concerts. As a composer, Gaubert wasnot an innovator, but he assimilated many of theinnovations of Franck, Ravel and Debussy, leaving notonly music for the flute but also contributions to opera,ballet, orchestral music and songs.

A wind player, when preparing to perform, willoften choose a comfortable note and repeat it a fewtimes until the embouchure begins to feel right, theinstrument is warmed by the player's breath, and soundand expression come into focus. So begins, beguilingly,Soir sur la plaine (Evening on the Plain), with a briefwarm-up centered on G sharp. For good measure, theflautist repeats the exercise down an octave, whereuponthe piano chimes in with a few chords, and havingdetermined that our G sharps are in tune, we launch intothe piece itself. As it turns out, the opening warm-up hassufficient musical merit to warrant returning severaltimes including, satisfyingly, as the movement'sconclusion. The following Orientale, the second of theDeux esquisses (Two Sketches) gives a glimpse, from asafe distance, of the mysterious and exotic East.

The striking opening of Soir sur la plaine harksback to Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun, which happensto outline the same ambiguous interval, the tritone, in itsopening flute solo. Philippe Gaubert created almostsingle-handedly a repertoire of sonatas, chamber worksand shorter pieces that reflect the revolution in fluteplaying initiated by Debussy and by the flute-makerTheobald Boehm, which is described more fully inVolume II of this series (Naxos 8.557306).

Nocturne and Allegro scherzando upholds the highstandard of Faure's Fantaisie, the Paris Conservatoire'sexamination piece for 1898. To put flautists succinctlythrough their paces, both pieces consist of a lyricalintroduction and a virtuosic conclusion. Gaubert'sFantaisie and Ballade share a similar lay-out, expandedto include brief cadenzas and greater expressive variety,and, in the case of the Ballade, a calm conclusion.

It is regrettable that Gaubert never wrote a fluteconcerto. As the composer of many successful largescaleorchestral works, he would have been a primecandidate for the task. He did, however, compose thebrief Sicilienne for flute and orchestra, which wouldserve admirably as an encore after a flute concerto, butwhich has achieved wider currency in a transcription forflute and piano, presumably by Gaubert himself.

The two Romances, composed just a few yearsapart, form a contrasting pair. The first is one ofGaubert's most effectively sustained lyricaloutpourings, shapely, long-lined, and wide ranging,while the second, a shorter affair by half, is by turnswhimsical and impetuous. The barcarolle Sur l'eau (Onthe Water), in the unusual tonality of G flat major, andwith a rippling accompaniment in the baritone registerof the piano, effectively evokes a Venetian gondolagliding smoothly, low in the water. We bid good nightto our survey of Gaubert's flute music with theBerceuse, or Lullaby, as it gently rocks in 6/8 time, andunfurls an artlessly simple tune that is yet anotherexample of Gaubert's genial melodic gift.

By the mid nineteenth century the IndustrialRevolution had created a numerous, leisurely, and wellto-do middle class in England and on the Continent, andwith it came a growing demand for music to grace thebourgeois home. No respectable Victorian parlourlacked a piano; a modicum of musical ability wasamong the expected accomplishments of a lady, and wasnot considered suspect in a gentleman. TheobaldBoehm's contemporaneous improvements to the flutebrought a tolerable level of accomplishment on thatinstrument within reach of a large and enthusiasticpublic, while concert-giving flute virtuosi becamepopular and successful as never before. Meanwhile anexpanding music-publishing business thrived on thedemand for new material, which was satisfied by aneffusion of salon pieces, variations on Scottish and Irishairs, and potpourris on popular opera tunes, all pennedby a host of distinctly minor composers, most of themflautists themselves. At the Paris Conservatoire, forexample, there was an unbroken tradition from 1868 to1893 of required graduation pieces by faculty flautistsTulou, Alt?¿s, and Demersseman. Meanwhile such stuffyancients as Bach, Gluck, Lully and Mozart languishedin obscurity.

As Philippe Gaubert graduated from the ParisConservatoire in 1894 this technically brilliant butmusically impoverished tradition was beginning tochange. With his mentor Paul Taffanel in place as theConservatoire's flute professor, such names as Faureand Enesco began to appear on the annual graduationpieces; Mozart, now considered indispensable in anyflute audition, was first assigned in 1918.

Throughout his career Taffanel had gatheredmaterial for a comprehensive treatise covering thehistory, theory, and practice of the flute. Shortly beforehis death in 1908 he entrusted this archive to hisfavourite pupil, Gaubert, who in 1923 finally completedthe project, publishing it as the Taffanel & GaubertMethode compl?¿te de fl??te. In addition to the expectedtreatment of scales, arpeggios, articulation, and othertechnical topics, Gaubert included a generous selectionof orchestral excerpts and a chapter on style, withdetailed advice on the interpretation of such classics asthe Adagio from Bach's Sonata in B minor, and theDance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck's Orpheus.

In a further effort to revive the baroque and classicalflute repertoire Gaubert initiated in 1910 a series oftranscriptions, with assistance from George Catherine inthe preparation of piano accompaniments. As Gaubertbecame increasingly busy with his conductingcommitments, noted flautists Marcel Moyse, LouisFleury and Fernand Caratge also contributedtranscriptions to the series. In 1927 Leduc published thecollection under the title Les Classiques de la fl??te.

Gaubert's contribution to the project consisted of somethirty titles, including multiple selections by Gluck,Lully, Schumann, Chopin and others, and givingflautists ready access to a broad variety of musicalstyles.

Since it was not possible - or even desirable - toinclude all of Gaubert's transcriptions in this recordingproject, we have chosen a single transcription torepresent each composer. The dozen names will befamiliar to most music-lovers, with the possibleexception of Andre Campra, a leading figure in Frenchtheatrical and sacred music in the early eighteenthcentury, and Andre-Ernest-Modeste Gretry, who later inthe same century was similarly influential in operacomique. Two of the selections could use identificationmore specific than what Gaubert and Leduc provided:the Beethoven Melodie is a lied entitled Zartliche Liebe(Tender Love), and Handel's Petite Marche exists inthree versions, the most familiar of which is probablythe third movement of the Trio Sonata, Op. 5 No. 2.

Handel, an inveterate borrower and arranger of his ownand others' music, would surely not have been surprisedto encounter a fourth version of this catchy and goodnaturedtune.

Fenwick Smith
Item number 8557307
Barcode 747313230723
Release date 01/01/2006
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Smith, Fenwick
Pinkas, Sally
Smith, Fenwick
Pinkas, Sally
Composers Gaubert, Philippe
Schumann, Robert
Gaubert, Philippe
Schumann, Robert
Disc: 1
Berceuse: Moderato quasi allegretto
1 No. 1. Soir sur la plaine (Evening on the Plain)
2 No. 2. Orientale
3 Nocturne
4 Allegro scherzando
5 Sicilienne (arr. flute and piano)
6 Romance
7 Invocation (based on Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro,
8 Menuet vif et gigue (based on Campra’s L’Europe ga
9 Minuet (based on Boccherini’s String Quintet in E
10 Musette vive (based on Gretry’s La fausse magie)
11 Minuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirits (based on
12 Prelude No. 15 (based on Chopin’s Prelude No. 15 i
13 Impromptu No. 3 (based on Schubert’s Impromptu No.
14 Traumerei (based on R. Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Op
15 Gavotte en rondeau (based on Lully’s Les ballets d
16 Sarabande (based on J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No.1,
17 Melodie (based on Beethoven’s Zartliche Liebe, WoO
18 Petite marche (based on Handel’s Trio Sonata, Op.
19 Romance: Assez lent
20 Fantaisie: Moderato, quasi fantasia - Vif
21 Sur l’eau (On the Water): Alla barcarolla, moderat
22 I. Andantino
23 II. Vif et joyeux
24 Berceuse: Moderato quasi allegretto
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