Poulenc, Dutilleux, Franck - Demin, Koroleff
Ars Produktion ARS 38 319
Classical - Chamber
Francis Poulenc: Sonata for Flute and Piano
Henri Dutilleux: Sonatine
Peter I. Tchaikovsky: Serenade Melancolique Op. 26
Cesar Franck: Sonata
Niccolo Paganini: La Campanella
Matvey Demin (flute)
Gleb Koroleff (piano)
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - May 22, 2021
This is the debut album of two young musicians, both (?) of Russian descent with a varied programme offering them a chance to show their competence, beginning with Francis Poulenc’s ever so popular Flute Sonata. Some fourteen years ago, Sharon Bezaly recorded it in a version for flute and orchestra. The BIS release, which also included two original major works: Carl Nielsen’s and Carl Reinecke’s Concerti for Flute and Orchestra, was very well received indeed and Sharon Bezaly’s playing will be hard to surpass. In this new ARS release, the flautist, Matvey Demin, may not be as widely known as Mme Bezaly, nor is his piano partner, Gleb Koroleff, a global household name, yet they demonstrate a surprising degree of professionalism that can easily measure up to most of the notables we do know.
Comparing musicians is not always easy. To what extent does it depend on the quality of their respective instruments? In specialist circles, much has and will still be said whether or not a 14ct gold (Bezaly) or sterling silver flute sounds better than the ones made of silver- or gold-plated nickel. On the other hand, professionals in the trade assure me that, more than anything else, it is the form and quality of the head joint that counts. That may be so, but I believe that leaving theory aside, it is first and foremost a matter of having the technical skills, the musicality and, as far as the interpretative side is concerned, the understanding of what a composer wants to convey that makes the difference between a good flautist and an exceptional one. I don’t know the characteristics Matvey Denim’s flute, but of whatever pedigree it is, it certainly has no bearing on his ability to express tone and dynamics in a most enviable manner.
Listening to Poulenc’s Sonata, written in memory of and dedicated to the late Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge (an American Maecenas of chamber music) I was immediately impressed by Demin and Koroleff getting straight to the essence of it. Of course, competition, and not only from Sharon Bezaly, is stiff. But the 28-year young Demin, a promising and multiple prize-winning artist (Tchaikowsky and ARD contests), stands firm. Apart from elements of wit and humour, which Poulenc is so famous for, a Russian soul like Mr Demin’s can be trusted to find and bring to the fore all the sadness and wistful moments Poulenc has put into the score; the second movement bearing witness to the fullest extent of it. In my view, this reading alone might be worth buying the disc for.
As for the other major work on offer, César Franck’s Sonata Op. 120, there is no shortage on record. It is as popular as Poulenc’s. In Super Audio alone the count stands at 32 (violin, viola and cello versions). However, in an arrangement for flute and piano, there is only one, though played in a different context. The liner notes are shy on information about the works played, and hence about the author of the arrangement, or should I say transcription, since some melodic lines fall outside the range of the flute. I assume that it is Douglas Woodfull-Harris. (Jean-Pierre Rampal, who was the first to play a flute version, did so on the basis of his own arrangement).
In this monumental sonata, Demin shows his immense versatility, playing his part in a typical French poetical style as though he had mutated into a seasoned French flautist of renown. (Though Franck is of Belgian origin, his life and work are thoroughly Parisian!). With ‘equal partner’ support from Koroleff, he sets downs an attractive alternative to the original violin version. Warm in tone, expressive in articulation, masterly in the demanding Allegro, and singing in the Recitativo-Fantasia. The final movement is brimming with beauty and played with light-footed elegance. What more does one want?
It may be clear that the remainder of the recital is played with equal competence, ending with a virtuoso ‘encore’ (La Campanella). When two musicians play, one is as important as the other, and it is fair to say that Gleb Koroleff contributes a lot to the achievement of Matvey Denim, by all counts an accomplished flautist to keep an attentive eye on.
Manfred Schumacher has, as usual, paid much attention to engineering a clean and well-defined recording. The Bösendorfer grand adds much to the overall warmth. In short: A most welcome release!
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France
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