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French Flute Concertos
Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764)
Concerto in C, Op. 7, No. 3 (1737) [14:54]
Michel BLAVET (1700-1768)
Concerto in A minor (1726?) [14:53]
Michel CORRETTE (1707-1795)
Concerto in G minor, Op. 4, No. 4: Adagio (1728) [3:04]
Pierre Gabriel BUFFARDIN (c. 1690-1768)
Concerto in E minor (17??) [13:31]
Jacques-Christophe NAUDOT (c. 1690-1762)
Concerto in G, Op. 17, No. 5 (1742?) [11:17]*
Joseph Bodin de BOISMORTIER (1689-1755)
Concerto in G, Op. 21, No. 3: Affettuoso (1728) [1:58]
Frank Theuns (transverse flute/*piccolo, director)
Les Buffardins
rec. 2014, AMUZ, Antwerp
ACCENT ACC24297 [59:41]

The booklet's program note is more accurately headed, "The 18th Century French Flute Concerto," but I could imagine that longer title posing problems with the cover design. It is accurate enough as it stands, but I hope you weren't expecting the Chaminade.

I don't know whether the ensemble "Les Buffardins," founded in 2007, regularly performs as here, with just one player to a part -- a practice recalling the severe applied musicology of the 1970s and '80s. However, the firm-bowed, incisive string playing produces a full, balanced sonority. Forward miking, in turn, gives the strings greater presence, boosting the harpsichord, too: in the Leclair, in fact, it makes quite a jangle, in a good way. The balances sound more natural in the other pieces, although I suspect the keyboard still wouldn't be heard quite so readily in the hall.

Next to the bright, assertive strings, Frank Theuns's Baroque transverse flute at first sounds diffuse, almost unassuming. The ear adjusts quickly, however, as Theuns comes into his own, tossing off scales and decorations with shapely aplomb, bringing off double-tongued notes with flair in Buffardin's finale, and sensitively inflecting the lyric lines. He switches to the piccolo for the Naudot concerto, producing a cool, clear, impeccably tuned tone, with some perfectly measured trills in the central Adagio.

The four concertos included here, while similar in duration and structure, still offer a measure of variety. The Blavet and Buffardin concertos go with a vigorous minor-key rigor similar to that of Vivaldi's concerti grossi; Blavet's severe opening movement even features stark octave cadences. The other two scores set off their cheerful Allegros with minor-key Adagios, heralded in each case by solemn French-overture rhythms.

I'm not sure why the two isolated slow movements from longer concerti were included -- if you did this sort of thing with a big Romantic concerto nowadays, you'd be throttled - but they're pleasing enough makeweights. The Corrette begins with a solemn chordal pattern, voicing the flute, uncharacteristically, below the violins, to haunting effect; the movement then moves into a more conventional, dignified cantabile. The Boismortier excerpt is graceful, with a lilt in the downward, drooping slurs.

The performances are quite fine, though I'd have liked Blavet's forthright central Gavottes to relax more. Rhythms are just strongly enough marked, save for one loosely "placed" hemiola in Naudot's opening movement. The mostly unobtrusive recorded ambience for whatever reason becomes more evident in some of Blavet's first-violin lines. Finally, while I like the cardboard "Digipak" format, the program booklet doesn't seem to fit anywhere in this one, despite the presence of a cutout in the pocket.

Stephen Francis Vasta


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