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Friday, November 26, 2021

Philippe Gaubert - Symphony; etc. (Marc Soustrot)


Composer: Philippe Gaubert
  • (01) Symphonie
  • (05) Les Chants de la mer
  • (08) Concert en fa

Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg
Marc Soustrot, conductor

Date: 2008
Label: Timpani



Flautists know Gaubert’s name. For them he wrote both didactic music and display pieces as well as three sonatas and a Sonatine. It will come as no surprise that he was a virtuoso of the flute standing in succession to his teacher Taffanel.

The works featured here repudiate the low expectations engendered by the enervation of many of those flute solos. Here we are in the heartland of the French late-romantic world.

The Symphony intrepidly treads the line between Franck and impressionism. The first movement is poetically restless with the motion of the waves and the sea-swell. At least once the spinnaker shiver that we hear in Louis Aubert's wonderful Breton sea portrait, Le Tombeau de Chateaubriand (1948) can be heard. Then again we hear shades of Debussy, Rimsky and Borodin. In this sense there are affinities with the work of the Belgian tone poet, Adolphe Biarent.  There are some warmly lambent flute solos - as in the faun-like voices of the second movement. The scherzo is cheery, fine-lined and light of foot. The finale underlines the excellence of balance achieved by engineers Alain Jacquon and Jeannot Mersch.  The brass writing rings out with a mixture of the imperious and the tragic. If the massed violins sometimes sound a mite steely the principals deliver their solos with sweet tenderness.

I first heard the three movement Les Chants de la Mer in Gaubert's own 1930 recording on Alpha 801 issued in 2006. Soustrot is noticeably slower than the composer but one can the better relish the delicate hues of this impressionistic writing. It drifts in delight between the Franck of Psyche, the Bax of Fand and Mediterranean and, inescapably Debussy's La Mer. There is a sovereign weight to the third and last movement as well as mystical communion with far marine horizons. It is into the tremble and shimmer of those horizons that the music finally evaporates. The Concerto in F is in three movements the first two of which are radiant with warm poetic feeling and transparent textures. The finale skips smilingly along, Vif et léger in folksy style and is rather like the scherzo of the Symphony. The work ends in an exuberance that is both intricate and swept along with panache.

Harry Halbreich provides the programme notes - essential reading.

Indispensable listening for adherents of the melodic-romantic nationalism. You will now want to hear the other orchestral works: the Violin Concerto, Pays Basque (1930), the choreographic epic Alexandre le Grand, Les Fresques (1923) and Inscriptions pour les portes de la ville (1934) – the latter also featured in a vintage recording on that Alpha disc.
-- Rob BarnettMusicWeb International


Philippe Gaubert (5 July 1879 – 8 July 1941) was a French musician who was a distinguished flautist, a respected conductor, and a composer. He was one of the most prominent French musicians between the two World Wars. After a prominent career as a flautist with the Paris Opéra, in 1919 Gaubert became professor of flute in the Conservatoire de Paris, principal conductor of the Paris Opéra, as well as principal conductor of the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. Gaubert's compositions are not especially innovative, but his work benefited from the examples of Franck, Ravel, and Debussy.


Marc Soustrot (born 15 April 1949 in Lyon) is a French classical conductor. Soustrot studied at the Conservatoire de Lyon and the Conservatoire de Paris. He was the music director of the Orchestre national des Pays de la Loire from 1976 to 1994, and from 1995 to 2003 GMD of the Beethoven Orchester Bonn which plays in both opera and concert. He has worked at major opera houses in Europe and made several recordings, such as Leonore, Beethoven's first version of Fidelio, the piano concertos and symphonies by Camille Saint-Saëns, Honegger's Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher, and Penderecki's St Luke Passion.


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