French Flute Chamber Music
I’m not sure how “real” the Mirage Quintet is – a quick Google of the name reveals no references to concerts performed anywhere, and the ensemble’s discography seems to consist entirely of this recording.
But never mind. Even if the group is just a mirage, its players are all fine musicians: Canada’s reigning flutist, Robert Aitken; leading studio musician and Aitken’s long-time recital partner, harpist Erica Goodman; violinist Jacques Israelievitch, recently retired as concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; and violist Teng Li and cellist Winona Zelenka, both current principals of that orchestra.
The music is also quite fine: several works are thoroughly impressionistic in style, others are touched with neo-classicism, but all are very French. CD collectors shouldn’t be discouraged if some of the early 20th-century compositions recorded here are unfamiliar.
Marcel Tournier was himself a harpist, as his lush writing for the instrument suggests. But his Op.34 Suite isn’t just a showpiece for the harp; it’s true chamber music, with a sophisticated interplay of instrumental forces. I particularly like the way the Mirage players dig into the final movement’s big, emphatic chords with an expansive sweep.
Similarly, Florent Schmitt’s Suite en rocaille Op. 84 is an elegant work – although there’s an edgy urgency in the second and fourth movements. And Gabriel Pierné’s Variations libres et finale derives an archaic quality from the composer’s use of the Lydian mode. Jean Françaix’s Quintette is a charming piece; and so is Roussel’s Sérénade Op. 30, although its instrumental effects and harmonic leanings also give it a quirky, modernist quality.
This isn’t the deepest music ever written – it’s a little too suave to be profound. But it is enjoyable, and very well performed.