California-based flutist Ai Goldsmith and pianist Miles Graber’s CD, Les exquises Allégories, gives us the opportunity to get to know four major works, each 15 to 20 minutes long, by little-known 20th-century composers, plus a lovely transcription of an early Schubert lied.
First on the program is Carl Frühling’s Fantasie, Op.55, a bravura, late-Romantic one-movement emotional rollercoaster ride. Goldsmith’s direct approach to playing the flute is perfect for the big, expansive opening, reminiscent of the opening moments of Chaminade’s Concertino and Eldin Burton’s Sonatina. This directness, which I might characterize as letting the music speak for itself, also works particularly well in the opening movement of the Sonatine by Walter Gieseking, whose work as a composer is as worthy of recognition as his career as a concert pianist. (He also composed Variations on a Theme by Grieg, also on this CD.)
Where it is perhaps most effective is in Schubert’s Litany for All Souls’ Day, which Goldsmith dedicated to her mother, who died in 2012, and which she plays with respectful simplicity, allowing the beauty and the sadness of the music to resonate and touch us.
There are also many moments of stunning virtuosity, which Goldsmith and Graber play with control and authority. Graber’s reading of the dauntingly difficult piano part in Grigory Smirnov’s Fantasia is quite breathtaking; but he is equally convincing in the tender solo piano interlude toward the end of the same piece.