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Idyll - The English Flute Unheard
Richard Henry WALTHEW (1872-1951)
Idyll (1907) [5:00]
Cyril ROOTHAM (1875-1938)
Suite in Three Movements, Op.64 (1921) [9:03]
George HENSCHEL (1850-1934)
Theme and Variations, Op.73 (1921) [13:30]
Robin MILFORD (1903-1959)
Sonata in C major, Op.69 (1944) [10:54]
Cecil Armstrong GIBBS (1899-1960)
Suite in A major, Op.144 (1956) [12:14]
Norman DEMUTH (1898-1968)
Three Pastorals after Ronsard, for Flute Solo (1953) [8:36]
Stanley BATE (1911-1959)
Sonata, Op.11 (1937) [11:25]
Leonard SALZEDO (1921-2000)
Cantiga Morisca, for Solo Flute (1981) [1:50]
John WHITE (b.1936)
Duettino (1960) [2:22]
James Dutton (flute)
Oliver Davies (piano)
rec. 2017, Menuhin Hall, The Menuhin School, Cobham, UK
MPR 101 [75:14]

‘Idyll’ pretty much covers this repertoire of British music for flute and piano spanning the years 1907 to 1981. Indeed, it’s Richard Walthew’s work that bears that name, and is the oldest piece: rich, enveloping piano chords, a calm, gentle five-minute eclogue with a long cadenza for the flute. Dedicated to Eli Hudson, a busy soloist of the time, it was premiered – and edited – by Walthew’s colleague Albert Fransella, principal flute of Henry Wood’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra. Rootham’s 1921 Suite evokes folkloric elements, a slightly wan modality, as well as promoting Baroque nomenclature – Passacaglia, Sarabande and Jig. It was dedicated to the French player Louis Fleury as was George Henschel’s altogether bigger-boned Theme and Variations, written in the same year. This is a delightful sequence of terpsichorean variations, one teetering wickedly on the cusp of a nautical hornpipe, that shows an avuncular compositional sense and – directly or indirectly – the qualities of the soloist Fleury, whom Henschel greatly admired.

Robin Milford’s sensitive art is reflected in his Sonata in C, composed in 1949. Its three compact movements illustrate lightly spiced baroque elements, lyric distinction in the central panel, and a lively, effortless finale. Armstrong Gibbs’ Suite in A can be accompanied either by piano, as here, or string orchestra. It’s very skilfully done and is in no sense pretentious. The highlight is the warm, liquid Sarabande though Peter Horton’s vigilant and insightful notes detect a ‘sombre’ element to its beauty. Perhaps one day we’ll hear Norman Demuth’s concertos for violin and for viola but in the meantime here are his Three Pastorals after Ronsard of 1953.There’s a rather Gallic cast to this set, as one might perhaps expect of a distinguished writer on French music of the late nineteenth and twentieth-centuries. Nonetheless, the clarity is vivid and attractive. If Demuth looked to France, Stanley Bate looked to Hindemith and his technically accomplished and melodically distinctive sonata is a high point of the disc. The Andante is especially good, this flute sonata anticipating his even better wartime violin sonata. Leonard Salzedo’s Cantiga Morisca was written in 1981 and is very brief (1:50) and sultry, doubtless reflecting his Sephardic heritage. The only living composer represented is John White whose attractive Duettino predates his later experimentalist works.

James Dutton is the long-standing principal flautist of the Band of the Scots Guards, from which position he retires this year (2018) and is a busy recitalist. Rather amazingly, though he and the indefatigable Oliver Davies have performed together for 30 years, this is their first recording together. They’ve selected wisely and have been warmly and sympathetically recorded. Davies is invariably the supplest of accompanists and provides perfect support for Dutton’s stylistically astute playing.

Jonathan Woolf

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