Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Philippe GAUBERT
Pièces Romantiques pour flûte et piano
Kathryn Thomas (flute) & Richard Shaw (pf), Phoebe Scott (cello)
Deux-Elles DXL 923 (73'17, Full Price)

Buy through MusicWeb for £13.30/14.80 postage paid World-wide.
You may prefer to pay by Sterling cheque or Euro notes to avoid PayPal. Contact for details

Purchase button

Visit our partner ArkivMusic
for sale in USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan

Sonate flûte et piano
Deuxième Sonate flûte et piano
Troisième Sonate flûte et piano
Madrigal flûte et piano
Orientale flûte et piano
Trois Aquarelles flûte cello et piano
Pièce Romantique flûte cello et piano 

Phillippe Gaubert, who died in 1941, left an indelible impression on flute playing, particularly in the United States. He was the first major flautist to adopt the open hole standard of playing and many of his students emigrated to the US to take up principal positions with the great American orchestras in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York. To this day, one can still hear the sense of timbre, control and silvery tone which Gaubert taught. Homogenised it may sound, but with tempered use of vibrato it can be often seduce the ears in evocative and poetic ways.

Not surprisingly, his compositions display many of these attributes. These are often works which stand musically apart from the tempestuous politics of the time. The First Sonata, for example, was composed in 1917 - and yet none of the fragility or despondency of a world order on the brink of calamity can be sensed in any of its three movements. The intense poetry of the middle Lent stands next to the optimism and enthusiasm of the outer movements. There is almost no stylistic development from this earliest work and the later sonatas from 1924 and 1933 - the mood is tangentially optimistic and laden with Debussyesque cadences.

If the style is traditionally French - just as Prokofiev's for his flute sonata was authentically Russian - this is not necessarily a drawback. But one encounters the same difficulties listening to this disc in one sitting as one would with the Ysaye violin sonatas - an element of repetitiveness and lack of invention, something one never encounters with the masters of French Impressionism, Debussy and Ravel. Taken as individual works interspersed with something else they are a miraculous tonic for a typically wet London morning.

Fortunately, Kathryn Thomas has a glorious tone - and her sense of the dynamic range of these works is finely attuned. This is particularly so in the Pièce Romantique, more akin to Chausson, but almost orchestral in some of its textures (listen to the flute's entrance after the piano and cello obilgato). Thomas' playing is always relaxed and loose, the sound often rich and reedy. None of the metallic hollowness one can sometimes associate with the steel flute appears evident on this clean and atmospheric recording. The nervousness which can sometimes accompany her London recitals has, thankfully, been overcome. Her playing brims with confidence and lustre - and she has fine accompanists in Richard Shaw and Phoebe Scott.

This is undoubtedly a beautiful disc - and a beautifully played one.

Marc Bridle

Performance and Recording

But Peter Woolf is not quite so sure:

This recital by a solo flautist, an excellent player who is prominent on the London scene, is a disappointment, despite Kathryn Thomas doing all for Philippe Gaubert that is possible.

I enjoyed one of these sonatas (probably the third) in a mixed recital she gave recently, but putting all three together reveals the composer's poverty of invention and reliance upon smooth melody, with repetitions of small phrases and, far too often, simple arpeggiated piano accompaniment. It is all too bland for my taste, though the CD has won plaudits elsewhere.

To characterise it, I hope not too unkindly, it is music for undemanding listening, maybe very suitable for including in Classic FM programmes. But for that, the presentation is lacking in essentials, and pianist Richard Shaw might have benefitted from editorial help. Although it is generously filled at 73 minutes, no timings are given for the fifteen individual tracks (four with cello as well as piano) - essential for radio programme producers!

We are told of Gaubert's considerable fame as a conductor and of the success of his last ballet in 1941, very shortly before he died, but not his date of birth (Gaubert, Philippe (b Cahors, Lot, 5 July 1879; d Paris, 8 July 1941). French flautist, conductor and composer [New Grove 2nd Edition].

On this CD's showing, that order is probably right; he was a flute prodigy and accompanied Melba on her tours (no doubt playing the obbligatti for the mad scenes). The pieces are all a little too comfortable and there is little scope to explore the potential of Kathryn Thomas's (one) flute. It will however be welcome for flute students and for professional flautists looking to widen their recital repertoires. I look forward to Kathryn Thomas's next CD and am sure she will want to choose more demanding and varied repertoire.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Concert and Show tickets
Musicians accessories
Click here to visit