Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Somewhere between Fauré and early Debussy, two masterpieces
Discophage | France | 03/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though he was born in 1881, almost twenty years after Debussy, twelve years after Roussel and six after Ravel, and composed until 1976 (when his blindness forced him to stop), reaching the modest age of 103 years-old, Paul Le Flem is one of those minor figures of the French music scene who, like Ropartz, Cras, Pierné, Magnard, Schmitt and to some extent D'Indy, stylistically never quite found their place between Franck, Saint-Saens and Fauré on one side and Debussy-Ravel and the younger (stylistically) generation of Roussel and the Groupe des Six on the other (to say nothing of Varèse, Le Flem's younger by a mere two years, and parsecs apart in compositional outlook). This disc conveniently pairs the two masterpieces of Le Flem's early chamber music. The sonata dates from 1905 and the Piano Quintet from 1910 (the notes are not very clear on the latter). Under their apparent rhapsodic and sometimes rambling aspect (the Quintet's first movement is over 17-minute long) they are tightly constructed, in their formal architecture as well as key progression. For instance, a same motive runs through the three movements of the sonata, its various transformations giving its different character to each. The musical language is post-Fauré (e.g. the more passionate Fauré of the second piano quartet and piano quintets) rather than post Franck, to early Debussy (the composer of the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra and of "The Blessed Damsel"), to which Le Flem brings his own sweeping lyricism and knack for the long and soaring melodic line. He also makes some use of folk tunes from Brittany, as in the Quintet's Finale (2:30), and occasionally more daring effects, as the harmonics at 3:30 in the same Finale. Those who enjoy the chamber music of Franck and Fauré, but also the arch late-romanticism and exuberant youthfulness of works like Strauss' Violin and Piano Sonata, and of course the music of all those "minor" French composers born late in the 19th century (Dukas, Vierne, Tournemire, Koechlin can be added to the list above) should enjoy this music.
Alain Jacquon and Louvigny Quartet (comprised of soloists from the Luxemburg Philharmonic Orchestra) play the Quintet with more cogency and muscularity, less "end-of-century" swooning than the members of the Centre National de Musique de Chambre d'Aquitaine, on an earlier version published in 1986 by the small French label Cybelia (Le Flem:Piano Quintet (Audio CD), strangely listed in the books section). The same is true with the Violin and Piano Sonata (played by the Quartet's first fiddler, Philippe Koch) when compared with the competing version by Annick Roussin and Marie-Catherine Girod, recorded in 1992 by Accord (Paul Le Flem: Works for Piano/Works for Piano and Violin). The more recent release is also better recorded, with a more natural sonic perspective, and the coupling with the Quintet is more coherent than with the piano works as on Accord. So this is the one to get, unless you are specifically interested in Le Flem's piano music.
If you like Faure and Chausson...
E. Weed | Houston, TX | 01/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Timpani label makes very good recordings of lesser-known French repertoire. Le Flem was born in 1881 in Brittany, and studied with, among others, D'Indy and Roussel in Paris. His first creative period lasted until 1914, then his need to provide for his family took precedence, and he did not resume composing until 1938. According to the notes, "he possessed the sense of the supernatural and nostalgia that constitute the essence of the Celtic soul." The music is a bit serpentine, and rich, reflecting, I gather, an intent on the part of the composer to evoke the "Celtic soul." The sound world of the music is similar to that of the other composers listed above. If you like those composer's chamber works, you will probably enjoy this disc. For me, it has stood up to multiple listenings better than some composers from this camp (such as Cras). Is le Flem a great undiscovered composer? I doubt it, but that doesn't stop me from giving this disc a warm recommendation to those who enjoy this vein of discovery."