on June 13, 2001
This is a terrific CD for fans of French flute music, from the six composers dubbed "Les Six" in the 1920's. All of their individual chamber pieces for flute are featured, scored variously for flute and piano or for solo flute, in addition to a suite for solo piano where all six of them contributed movements and whose title is that of the CD. Emily Beynon is the young (30-something) Welsh-born principal flutist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam, and plays excellently on this CD. Andrew West is a splendid accompanist, and shines in his own right in the solo piano suite. The production and notes are up to Hyperion's usual high standard. It is best to listen to this music in relatively small doses rather than all at once. Having said that, enjoy!
Les Six were a group of French composers who identified themselves as a group in the early 1920's but some of whom were still alive and composing as late as the 1960's and '70's. "L'Album des Six" itself was a collection of short solo piano pieces from 1920, and this disc includes that collection as well as the complete works of this group for flute and piano -- it all adds up to 73+ minutes of very lovely unpretentious music. As French composers of their time, they felt that "pretentious" was synonymous with "German" -- which is unfair but understandable! Be that as it may, each of these pieces, all quite short, has its own distinctive flavor and contour, and they are beautifully played by Emily Beynon (whom I reviewed in the McCabe Flute Concerto recording) and the pianist Andrew West. Hyperion gives them top quality sound. The performances are so strong that it's possible to listen to this disc straight through, but it's also a good one to sample. To my ears, it's all very fine, but I might single out the Poulenc Sonata of 1957, Auric's "Imaginees 1" (1968), Tailleferre's "Forlane" (1972), Honegger's "Romance" (1953), and, of course the 1920 Album des Six" itself, six pieces totaling about 12 minutes. Miniatures, one might scoff -- but you won't regret getting this.