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“Belle Nuit” = (TrackList Follows) – Kathryn Goodson, piano/Randall Hawes, Bass trombone/Timothy McAllister, & Donald Sinta, sax/Gail Williams, horn – Navona (2 CDs)

“Belle Nuit” = Music by CLAUDE DEBUSSY, EMMANUEL CHABRIER, FABIEN GABEL, CÉSAR FRANCK, HENRI DUPARC, JEAN-BAPTISTE SINGELÉE, GABRIEL FAURÉ, MAURICE RAVEL, ARTUR HONEGGER, OLIVIER MESSIAEN, GEORGES BIZET, JULES MASSENET, JACQUES OFFENBACH  (TrackList Follows) – Kathryn Goodson, piano/Randall Hawes, Bass trombone/Timothy McAllister, & Donald Sinta, sax/Gail Williams, horn – Navona NV59893 (2 CDs), 110:42 [Distr. by Naxos] (11/11/14) ****:

This is a highly attractive and beautifully played collection of works that are all by French composers and the net effect is – of course – quite “French.”

As it turns out, the concept and organization for this two-disc collection was that of the pianist, Kathryn Goodson. She is joined by the four wind players who are among the very players of their instrument in the world. Goodson herself is an acclaimed solo and accompanist player. Williams and Hawes are both long time members of the Chicago Symphony and Detroit Symphony, respectively. Donald Sinta has been one of the “deans” of saxophone pedagogy in this country for over fifty years and Tim McAllister is, arguably, the brightest young star in the classical saxophone world. So, no wonder that all performances here are remarkable and very attractive to listen to.

The program is structured in two different but very interesting halves. The first disc is “Sonata and rhapsodies” and includes some very well-known solo works such as the Debussy Rhapsodie for saxophone, the Chabrier Larghetto for horn and the Franck Violin Sonata, played here on alto saxophone. The selection for bass trombone is the Fantasy in the Style of Richard Strauss Fabien Gabel. That was a new one to me. Gabel is a trumpet player and conductor by trade and has written a number of works for friends. All of these works are wonderful gems and the Chabrier and the Debussy are on the “must learn” list for players of the respective instruments.

The second disc is a collection of many short melodic beauties entitled “Romance and Melody.” The set includes many works that are transcribed from pieces written for other instruments and/or voice. The programming here is cleverly divided up to showcase each of the instrumental soloists separately and then – in what is one of my favorite sections in this set – a closing set of three opera extracts using players in pairs.

A perfect example is the French horn and bass trombone duet “At the foundation of the holy temple” from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. This arrangement, just like everything else in this collection is absolutely scintillating. There are also a couple of genuine oddities here, such as Honegger’s Mimaamaquim, a Hebrew reference to the horrors of the second World War or Messiaen’s lovely but mysterious Vocalise.

I imagine or assume that this collection will appeal the most to players and lovers of the instruments involved; saxophone, trombone and French horn. After all, every one of these people – Kathryn Goodson as well – is an absolute master of their instrument who young players should emulate. However, this should also appeal to lovers of French music and anything that is simply and completely “pretty” throughout.

Navona once again puts out a sonically rewarding product with attractive packaging and helpful information, including some additional photos, notes, et cetera on the enhanced first CD. Highly recommended!

TrackList:

CD 1:

  1. 1. Rhapsodie pour saxophone et orchestra – Debussy
  2. 2. Larghetto pour cor et orchestra – Chabrier
  3. 3. Fantasie dans le style de Richard Strauss – Gabel
  4. 4. Sonate pour piano et violin (saxophone) – Franck

CD 2:

  1. 1. Cinq melodies – Duparc
  2. 2. Duo Concertant – Singelée
  3. 3. Beau soir – Debussy
  4. 4. Pièce en forme de habanera – Ravel
  5. 5. Mimaamaquim – Honegger
  6. 6. Vocalise – Messiaen
  7. 7. Mélodies – Fauré
  8. 8. Au fond du temple saint – Bizet
  9. 9. Baigne d’eau mes mains et mes lèvres – Massenet
  10. 10. Belle nuit – Offenbach

—Daniel Coombs

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