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Quartets by FRANÇOIS DEVIENNE – Musica Reale – Channel Classics

FRANÇOIS DEVIENNE (1759-1803): Flute Quartets, Op. 66 , 1 and 3; Bassoon Quartets, Op. 73, 1 and 3 – Musica Reale – Channel Classics CCS SA 35415 SACD (11/3/15) [Dist. by Harmonia mundi] *****:

For those who’ve forgotten their elementary music school textbooks, Françoise Devienne was a bassoonist, flutist and composer whose contemporaries were Mozart and Haydn – in fact, after listening to this CD it’s no stretch to add, as if Mozart had been French and loved the flute. Even being no Mozart, Devienne’s flute music in particular is of great importance to flutists and the list of those who have recorded his music begins with Jean-Pierre Rampal and continues with superstars like Sir James Galway and Patrick Gallois.

Now we can safely say it extends to Mr. Kerstin McCall, principal flautist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra since 2005. His work in the two flute quartets is so exquisite that you almost don’t mind when Devienne’s inspiration flags.

No problem. The fast last movements of each, designed to thrill a very sophisticated, tuned-in audience, do their job so spectacularly well that, together with each of the six movements in the two bassoon quartets, this disc is a must for those who love discovering those perfect intersections of classical chamber music repertoire and audiophile sound that were made for demonstrating their systems for friends or evaluating prospective upgrades.

After 30 minutes of glorious flute quartets, Devienne ratchets the stakes up higher with two gloriously-written bassoon quartets which capture the wonderfully supple, agile and gorgeously-colored tone, with a touch of sweet maple, produced by Gustavo Nuñez, principal bassoonist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra since 1995.

That the Musica Reale musicians play so superbly well is not surprisingly since they are all from the RCO; it’s the result of an initiative formed to bring together the orchestra’s musicians, in a variety of formations, to play chamber music “in all its aspects.” And while McCall and Nuñez gain and deserve the spotlight, cellist Benedikt Enzler similarly excels in the many opportunities Devienne gives the cellist to shine, from exciting virtuosos passages to beautiful lyric lines.

The sound is simply superb in all modes, a touch more expansive in full-on enhanced SACD surround sound. The liner notes are short but sweet.

—Laurence Vittes

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