Classica Francese / Anette Maiburg

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DEBUSSY Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp. Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (arr. Ceysson). CRAS Quintet for Flute, Harp, Violin, Viola, and Cello. JOLIVET Chant de linos & Anette Maiburg (fl); Alexandra Cravero (voc); Emmanuel Ceysson (hp); Karina Buschinger (vn); Wen Xiao Zheng (va); Guido Schiefen (vc); Mathias Haus (vib, xyl) MDG 910 1825 6 (SACD:76:45)


Entitled Classica Francese , this is the French entry in a series of discs, each focused on music of a particular nationality, for a project organized for MDG by the excellent German flutist Anette Maiburg. (Flutists, so often, seem to be the driving force behind chamber music ventures.) It intersperses nine 20th-century French chansons among four standard 20th-century classical selections for a chamber ensemble featuring the flute. I find the performances superlatively good, the recorded sound truly stunning, the program concept odd, but stimulating, and the booklet’s omissions annoying.

Why MDG fails to identify the chansons’ composers either on the cover or in the booklet—though there are references to some of them in Eckhard van den Hoogen’s whimsically rambling notes, with some copyright information given in tiny print—is a mystery. Another regrettable decision was to include synopses of the lyrics. Why not the actual texts with translations?

On first hearing the program, I assumed that the popular songs were meant to relate in some musical way to the classical material, but the chansons, which are essentially Romantic, seem a mismatch with the unsentimental, 20th-century French classics. (Three by Jacques Brel— Amsterdam, Ces gens la , and Ne me quitte pas , along with Padam, Padam by Norbert Glanzberg—have an overwrought, haranguing quality that might better complement some of the more melodramatic scenes in Massenet or Saint-Saëns operas than Debussy, Jean Cras, or André Jolivet.)

On repeated hearings, I realized that the link between the popular and classical material was not one of style or content, but instrumentation. The ensemble of flute, three strings, harp, and vibraphone or xylophone, accompanying the singer Alexandra Cravero, in sophisticated arrangements by Andreas Tarkman, brings the same refinement and virtuosity to the song accompaniments as to the chamber selections. I began to enjoy the program more as a French-themed playlist, with instrumental color as the common denominator. Cravero, with her rather low-placed voice and perfect diction, is an accomplished vocalist, fully convincing as a chanteuse.

Some of the chansons are less lacking in wit than Brel’s, and I wonder whether Fanfare readers know of “Barbara,” whose Göttingen is among them. A chanteuse of the 1960s, better known in France than in the U.S., Barbara—not to be confused with her American contemporary “Barbra”—was the stage name of Monique Andrée Serf. Her singing is exquisite, and some of her songs are almost Schubertian in their harmony and form. While Göttingen , a catchy waltz, isn’t her very best—those are found on her album “Barbara chante Barbara”—it’s the most charming on the disc, and a pleasure to encounter again.

As for the classical performances that make up most of the disc, they are superb. I would have preferred not to hear yet another transcription of the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune , even one played with as gorgeous tone and sensuous phrasing as Maiburg’s. There are so many other programming choices that could have been made from the French repertoire for flute and instruments. The supple performance of Debussy’s amazing Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, one of the most original pieces of music ever composed, has all of the right attributes: alert rhythm, flexible ensemble, and sensitivity to the subtle timbral possibilities of the three instruments. It alone would give reason to recommend this disc. The brief, one-movement Quintet by the obscure, yet periodically revived Impressionist composer, the naval officer Jean Cras, is a colorful, diverting work that has received several previous recordings. It is radiantly done here. Jolivet’s sophisticatedly primitive Chant de linos , composed for flute and piano in 1944, receives a suitably dynamic performance in the composer’s chamber arrangement. It, and the entire CD, benefits from the very natural, live, but clear sound that’s customary with MDG.

FANFARE: Paul Orgel

Product Description:

  • Release Date: October 01, 2013

  • Catalog Number: 9101825-6

  • UPC: 760623182568

  • Label: MDG

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: André Jolivet, Barbara, Claude Debussy, Georges Auric, Jacques Brel, Jean Cras, Louis Maitrier, Pierre Barouh, Roy Alfred

  • Performer: Alexandra Cravero, Anette Maiburg, Emmanuel Ceysson, Guido Schiefen, Karina Buschinger, Mathias Haus, Wen Xiao Zheng