François DEVIENNE (1759-1803)
Flute Concerto No.1 in D Major [17:35]
Flute Concerto No.2 in D Major [17:12]
Flute Concerto No.3 in G Major [15:18]
Flute Concerto No.4 in G Major [16:38]
Patrick Gallois (flute)
Swedish Chamber Orchestra
rec. Örebro Concert Hall, Örebro, Sweden, 20-24 May 2013
NAXOS 8.573230 [66:42]

François Devienne was a man of extraordinary accomplishments and even though he has many compositions in other genres to his credit, it is for his contribution to the music for wind instruments, especially the flute, that he is best remembered. He is also most significantly credited with founding the French school of flute playing.

This recording, with Patrick Gallois as both soloist and director, is the first in a series that is intended to include the complete concertos for flute by both Devienne and Mercadante. Although the performances prove to be charming and enjoyable throughout, the disc is unfortunately not entirely devoid of problems.

The unnatural balance between orchestra and soloist, at its most noticeable in the first concerto, creates the disconcerting impression of two separate musical events proceeding in tandem. The peculiar balance also favours an unduly booming cello and bass line which compromises clarity, especially in the orchestral ritornellos. Inconsistencies in phrasing and articulation between soloist and orchestra are also too numerous to be merely dismissed as spontaneous creative flourishes.

This disc has much to commend it however and Gallois’ erudite musicianship and effortless technique make him a worthy standard-bearer for the French school of flute playing, as well as champion of the music of his illustrious predecessor, François Devienne.

The structure of the four attractive concertos presented on this recording follows much the same pattern of fast-slow-fast, even if a Romance in concertos three and four replaces the Adagio second movements of the first and second concertos.

Patrick Gallois is sensitive to this subtle difference, not just in his choice of tempi, but also aesthetically. He is a musician of some complexity and he brings out the very best in Devienne’s concertos.

The lively allegro first movements are presented with a degree of continuity between the concertos and the final movement rondos also benefit from thoughtful structural underpinning.

Gallois successfully convinces the listener of his commitment to the music, and whilst Devienne’s flute concertos are already well represented in the catalogue, including flamboyant and suave performances by artists like James Galway and Jean-Pierre Rampal, these are persuasive performances that are a worthwhile addition.

Leon Bosch
Previous review: Stephen Francis Vasta

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