“Flute and Piano Masterworks” = SCHUBERT: Introduction and Var. on “Trockne Blumen,”; CARL REINECKE: Sonata for flute and piano; PROKOFIEV: Sonata for flute and piano in D Major – Paul Fried, flute /Bryan Pezzone, p. – Golden Tone

by | Dec 9, 2013 | Classical CD Reviews

“Flute and Piano Masterworks” = SCHUBERT: Introduction and Variations on “Trockne Blumen,” Op. 160, D. 802; CARL REINECKE: Sonata for flute and piano “Undine,” Op. 167; PROKOFIEV: Sonata for flute and piano in D Major, Op. 94 – Paul Fried, flute /Bryan Pezzone, p. – Golden Tone Records GTR-008, 67:00 [6/6/13] **(*):

These certainly are masterworks and beloved ones at that, all available in a number of recordings though, as far as I can tell, this is the only recording that offers all three together. And that’s an important selling point since they make for a very satisfying program. First we have Schubert’s variations on his own Trockne Blumen from the song cycle Die Schöne Mullerin, D. 795. Like Die Forellen, which is the basis for the fourth movement variations that give the Trout Quintet its nickname, Trockne Blumen is a very pretty song that doesn’t immediately suggest itself as a candidate for theme-and-variations treatment, but the set of variations Schubert nonetheless based on it shows just how much progress he had made as a composer in the five years between the Trout Quintet and this later work (1824). The variations movement in the quintet is all about giving the individual instruments a go at the tune—much less about cleverly varying that tune. The Variations on “Trockne Blumen” manages to be both a fine set of variations and a brilliant showcase for a flutist’s talents. There are moments of dark introspection typical of late Schubert, but it all ends in a good-natured march to the finish.

It’s not quite fair to say that the “Undine” Sonata is what keeps the name of Carl Reinecke alive, but it is just about the only work of that composer you have a chance of hearing in concert. A student and follower of Mendelssohn and Schumann, Reinecke outlived his heroes by more than half a century, but his essentially conservative idiom changed little during his long life. His 1882 sonata is based on a German romance that supplied the storyline for a number of operas, most famously Dvořák’s Rusalka. Undine tells the tale of the eponymous water sprite, who marries a knight in order to gain a human soul. Reinecke’s lovely work makes appropriately watery musical gestures throughout. It also more or less follows the plot, portraying Undine’s life before meeting her knight; her initially blissful life with him; and in the dramatic finale, the sad dissolution of her marriage and return to her native element.

Prokofiev’s sonata, completed during World War II, is one the composer’s most successful chamber works. When David Oistrakh heard it, he envied flutists this plum and so prevailed on the composer to arrange it for violin, in which form it’s more often heard today.

As I say, the program on offer here is an attractive one and so, for the most part, are the performances by flutist Paul Fried and pianist Bryan Pezzone. They capture well the air of dark mystery with which Schubert invests his introduction, the perfect entrée to the theme, with its typically Schubertian interplay of light and shadow. The variations themselves are fluid, dashing where that is called for, jaunty in the lightsome finale.

The Reinecke piece gives Bryan Pezzone a chance to show off more, and his watery scales and arpeggios splash most agreeably. Meanwhile, Paul Fried flutters and trills with ceaseless energy yet still manages to imbue the music with a dramatic longing that speaks to his close identification with Reinecke’s muse. Tempi are uniformly slow, but the basic conception is strong.

In the Prokofiev, too, the tempi are mostly slow, which results not so much in a feeling of sluggishness as of coolness and detachment. Admittedly, the work does seem to gain heft in its incarnation as a violin sonata, which is why violinists have effectively hijacked the piece, claiming it as their own. But here the mood seems somewhat aloof—a decent performance but not the equal of the others.

Still, those other readings are compelling enough to elicit a recommendation—except that I find the studio recording claustrophobic: painfully close-up and airless, lacking any sense of depth. This is a shame given the manifest virtues in the performances of the Schubert and Reinecke.

—Lee Passarella