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GAUBERT: Works for Flute, Vol. 2

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Philippe Gaubert (1879 - 1941)

Complete Works for Flute, Volume 2

In the mid-nineteenth century the German jeweller, goldsmithand flutist Theobald Boehm applied his considerable talents to the improvementof the flute. The result, after several decades of research andexperimentation, was an instrument with greatly improved intonation and aversatile, dependable mechanism. It could be built with a tube of either woodor metal - typically silver. The Boehm flute had a wider compass and a widerdynamic range, and was capable of greater virtuosity than its predecessors,thus providing the greater brilliance and carrying power required inever-larger orchestras and concert halls.

               Especiallywhen built of silver, the Boehm flute was also found to be more responsive tosubtle shadings of timbre, colour, and intensity, characteristics firstexploited by the French. The sinuous, slowly unfurling solo line of Debussy'sL'apr?¿s-midi d'un faune, first given in 1894, proved the flute capable of aradically new range of expression. Debussy and his compatriot Maurice Ravel,the great orchestral colourists of the early twentieth century, developed andexpanded the capabilities of the instrument in a wealth of memorable orchestralpassages. Each also contributed to the repertoire of the flute in more intimatesettings, Debussy most notably with the incidental music to Les chansons deBilitis (1901), the famous Syrinx for solo flute (1913), and the Sonata forflute, viola and harp (1915), and Ravel with Trois po?¿mes de Mallarme andChansons madecasses.

This heady climate of flute innovation coincided with theearly maturity of the distinguished French flutist, composer, conductor andpedagogue Philippe Gaubert. Born in 1879, the fifteen-year-old virtuoso earnedhis first prize for flute at the Paris Conservatoire just months before thepremi?¿re of L'apr?¿s-midi d'un faune. In 1903 he received a first prize infugue, and just two years later he won the Prix de Rome, distinguishing himselffrom the many competent if unexceptional flutist-composers produced by theConservatoire. Despite his later professorship at the Paris Conservatoire andhis conducting commitments at the Opera and Societe des Concerts, Gaubertcomposed throughout his lifetime, producing dozens of chamber and orchestralworks, several ballets and other stage works, and a large corpus of chansons.

Although Gaubert's strongest compositional influence wasFaure, he soon incorporated the innovations of Debussy and Ravel in such flutepieces as Soir pa?»en and Medailles antiques (Volume I of this series) and Deuxesquisses (Vol. III). Honegger, Koechlin, Ibert, and a few others contributedflute pieces in a similar vein, but Gaubert created almost single-handedly arepertoire of sonatas, chamber works and shorter pieces that reflect therevolution in flute playing initiated by Debussy's L'apr?¿s-midi d'un faune.

In the Sonata of 1917 Gaubert takes the unusual step ofprescribing specific qualities of sound in certain passages. At the beginningof the first movement the flute is to play avec une sonorite tr?¿s claire, andat the beginning of the second avec une sonorite calme et penetrante. Theopening theme of the Sonata is followed immediately by a pair of gracefularabesques built on the whole-tone scale, an exotic device made more familiarby its deployment in L'apr?¿s-midi d'un faune. Throughout the work Gaubert'smany meticulously notated manipulations of tempo, phrasing, and dynamics, andhis free elaboration and development of his melodic material give this Sonata,despite its clear forms, a feeling of improvisational freedom and spontaneity.Borrowing a successful device of Cesar Franck, Gaubert brings the work to asatisfying close by paraphrasing, at the end of the last movement, thebeginning of the first. The piece is dedicated ?á la memoire de mon cher ma?«trePaul Taffanel, who had died in 1908. Gaubert had published several works withflute in the intervening years, but perhaps he felt that this fine sonata washis first effort to be fully worthy of his mentor, collaborator and friend.

The Second Sonata is likewise dedicated to a great andinfluential flutist, Marcel Moyse. With its pastoral style, restraineddynamics, moderate tempos, long melodic lines, and simple formal layout, themood of this genial piece is more Apollonian than Dionysian. In the firstmovement particularly, the music has a smooth surface that calls to mind themature chamber works of Faure.

The long lines present quite a challenge to the breathcontrol and interpretive ability of the player. In the classic Taffanel andGaubert Methode compl?¿te de fl??te Gaubert explains, in the section on style,that breaths are sometimes required by the music even when not needed by theperformer, and that conversely, in contexts where the music wants to continueuninterrupted, the performer sometimes needs to breathe, and so mustincorporate the interruption as unobtrusively as possible. In his edition ofthe Second Sonata Gaubert gives no suggestions as to when and where this is tobe done. This writer (and performer) would like to point out that althoughdigital editing has of course been used in the production of these CDs, it hasnot been used to spirit away any of the breaths actually taken.

Gaubert's three flute sonatas all share a three-movementformat. Each has faster outer movements flanking a reflective interlude. Thethree sonatas together repeat this pattern, with the Apollonian Second Sonataflanked by the more outgoing First and Third.

The Third Sonata is the most dramatic of the three, and revertsto the freely improvisatory style of the first. Its third movement is downrightrambunctious as it chases the simple four-bar subject through no fewer thaneight different tonalities before finally deciding that it is, after all, in Gmajor. This sonata is dedicated to Jean Boulze, solo flutist of the Paris Operaand the Concerts Lamoureux.

The Sonatine is the last of Gaubert's works for flute andpiano, and is dedicated to Georges Barr?¿re, Gaubert's Conservatoire classmate,who had moved to the United States in 1905 to become solo flutist of the NewYork Symphony Orchestra. The second movement is unique among his flute works inits dedication to a composer (Hommage ?á Schumann). It opens with a theme ofSchumannesquely yearning chromaticism, followed by three variations and anextended coda. Both movements, with their wide variety of tempo and mood,effectively convey the feeling of improvisational freedom suggested by thesubtitle quasi fantasia. Although it is shorter than the sonatas, the Sonatinecontinues Gaubert's lifelong development of expressive and dramatic power.


Fenwick Smith

Item number 8557306
Barcode 747313230624
Release date 06/01/2004
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
Gaubert, Philippe
Producers Gordon, Joel
Gordon, Joel
Disc: 1
Sonatine Quasi Fantasia
1 Modere (sans lenteur)
2 Lent
3 Allegro moderato
4 Pastorale: A l'aise, mais sans lenteur
5 Andante
6 Assez vif
7 Allegretto
8 Intermede pastoral: Tres modere
9 Final: Joyeux - Allegretto
10 Allegretto, tres allant
11 Hommage a Schumann: Andante quasi adagio
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