This is the second volume of a series that Channel Classics is devoting to the artistry of various first chair players of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Emily Beynon has selected five pieces by women composers, and is joined by seven friends to help her in the realizations of these works. The SACD is wonderfully fashioned with terrific surround sound that highlights the radiant tonal characteristics of all of these artists. If the series continues along these lines (reminding me of the old “First Chair” albums that Columbia made of the Philadelphia Orchestra) it will be something of a landmark and hard to beat sonically. The first volume, by the way, features trombonist Jorgen van Rijen.
Beynon is a Welsh woman who studied at the Royal College of Music and with William Bennett at the Royal Academy of Music before migrating to Paris for further tutelage with Alain Marion. She is heard on the BBC frequently, is an avid chamber music player, and very enthusiastic proponent of new music who is also preparing a series of study books to be published by The Netherlands. She has a burnished and vibrant tone, is technically flawless, and could easily assume the position of a touring flute soloist the equal of any in the world if she so chose.
The works on this disc are very pleasant and engaging. Hilary Tann’s From Song of the Amergin reminds me of Bax’s Trio for Flute, Viola, and Harp in its sweltering harmonies and lush textures. Amy Beach is a known quantity, and it is delightful to hear her complex and thoughtful Theme and Variations (commissioned by the San Francisco Chamber Music Society in 1916), composed after her return to America following her husband’s death in 1910. Sally Beamish and Thea Musgrave represent the more modern aspects of the woman’s art on this disc, the former pungent and slyly representative of her experiences after the birth of her daughter (for flute and piano), while the Musgrave is typically very sophisticated and always conscious of the largest degree of form in its construction (this is from 1967, for flute and oboe).
Finally, Louise Farrenc presents us with a fine Flute trio tinged with the finest French romanticism, the crowing achievement of her chamber music efforts. This is really a disc that you cannot lose with; relishing the underappreciated talents of these composers who happen to be female, and performed with such alacrity and verve that one can only consider them to be definitive. Highly recommended to all comers.
— Steven Ritter