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Chamber Music with Flute


Mountain Song; Romeo and Juliet: Trio for flute, cello and piano Book of Hours;
Four Prayers

Fenwick Smith
(flute), David Leisner (guitar), Ronald Thomas (cello), Mihae Lee (piano) & Ann Hobson
Pilot (harp)


An absorbing disc from a composer who rejects modernism but is never uninteresting, making good music from a tonal start. He has been devoted to the flute since adolescence and these examples range through 1949-2006.


The Romeo & Juliet pieces with guitar are headed each by a few words of Shakespeare, more a trigger for composing than essential to listeners.


With piano is a serious and thoughtful trio with two of its movements marked largo before a sparkling finale, and some recent Prayers. The harp is as winning in accompaniment of the Book of Hours as is the guitar for the Shakespeare inspired pieces.


A well balanced compilation of recordings from various times.

Interesting that this CD is from a retired distinguished second flutist of the Boston S O, who went on to enjoy a varied professional life with a substantial discography. A well balanced compilation of recordings from various times; recomended.

Flute Concerto & Violin Concerto

Philippe Quint, Violin. Jeffrey Khaner, Flute
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Jose Serebrier

Naxos American Classics 8.559278 [63 mins, Recorded 2002, Liverpool]

Best known for his songs, the veteran American composer Ned Rorem b.1923 (pictured by Jean Cocteau) has a lot of orchestral music to his credit.

Most interesting here is the Concerto for Flute and Large Orchestra, a rare genre. Rorem titles his movements after composing; "I conceive all non-sung pieces as though they were songs - like settings of words that aren't there."

About the flute concerto, conductor Jose Serebrier writes: "The opening seven-note cluster, unusually marked fffff, is a recurring leitmotiv - - Hymn is an interlude, scored for bassoon, trumpet, piano, viola and the solo flute - - the piano playing a simple chorale between contrapuntal statements from the other four instruments. False Waltz is a rollicking affair shaped like a pyramid - - Resume and Prayer is a cadenza reviving briefly all the foregoing matter - -".

Composed 2002 for the Philadelphia Orchestra in Rorem's "refined tonal idiom", and described then as "a surpassingly imaginative fantasy", it was recorded in Liverpool 2005; I hope the RLPO gave some live performances associated with the studio sessions? It would go down well at The Proms, and would be well worth considering by music colleges and by a student flautist aspiring to become a BBC Young Musician?

Cello Concerto & Piano Violin Concerto No 2

Simon Mulligan, piano Wen-Sinn Yang, cello
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Jose Serebrier

Naxos American Classics 8.559315

Premiered by Julius Katchen in 1954, this easy listening romantic piano concerto was not heard again for 50 years and on its own would not really justify purchase of the CD, nor do I think it will make its way with much more success in the next half-century.

But the recent cello concerto (2002, in eight movements with descriptive titles - I. Curtain - rise II. There and Back III. Three Queries, One Response IV. Competitive Chaos V. A Single Tone, A Dozen Implications VI. One Coin, Two Sides VII. Valse Rappelee VIII. Adrift) whilst still tonally based, is more interesting, and does not deserve a like fate.

[Serebrier, a hugely prolific recording conductor, interests me. As part of a vast project in late '60s my son was involved in his LP recording of Tchaikovsky 1812 with childre's choir and canons !]

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also: Carole Farley's CD of Rorem's songs


© Peter Grahame Woolf