ROBERT GROSLOT: “Works for Flute and Piccolo” = Concerto for Flute and Ensemble; Bodede-Moke; Three Night Pieces; Suite for Flute and Piano; Albarossa; Concerto for Piccolo and Ensemble; Four Dance Sketches – Peter Verhoyen, flute and piccolo/Arco Baleno ensemble/Soloists – Groslot Music Editions 1401, 68:47 (5/1/14) ****:

I think Robert Groslot is a very talented and very interesting guy. I first became familiar with his work through his album of concertos for wind instruments and concert band and I was very impressed! Groslot produces and distributes his own CDs with funding assistance from Belfius Bank, Belgium and Adams Music.

Groslot is Belgian and has built quite a reputation throughout Europe as composer and conductor who seems to specialize in wind ensembles and music for winds, although I notice on his website that he is branching out both in genre as well as in venue. For example, Robert is bringing his “Night of the Proms” ensemble, which he directs, to the U.S. in a tour which will include performances in Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas. Based on what I’ve heard of his music, I strongly encourage folks in those parts of the country to go check it out.

On the present CD, Groslot had the good fortune to work with the fabulous piccolo and flute player Peter Verhoyen, principal piccolo with the Royal Flemish Philharmonic. He is a brilliant player and the very helpful (by the way) booklet notes suggest that he and Groslot have worked with each other before. The music is really interesting and entertaining!

The Concerto for Flute and Ensemble is a very beautiful and atmospheric work that has some shimmering orchestrations and a touch of jazz feel, throughout. An interesting side note is that the work is influenced by a poem by Paul Verlaine which, in turn, was used – in part – as code to signal the beginning of the Normandy invasion in 1944. Groslot’s father served in the resistance and this very sparkling upbeat work serves, in part, as a memorial to the elder Groslot. It is a very fine work!

Bodede-Moke is a very short extract from Groslot’s larger orchestral work, Black Venus, and evokes some African ceremonial music, played beautifully here on piccolo. In a similar vein, Groslot’s Three Night Pieces, scored for flute and harp, conjure up a sense of the nocturnal or indigenous music of some sort. It is a very misty, evocative work bolstered by splendid performances from Verhoyen and harpist Eline Groslot.

I was also amply impressed by the Suite for Flute and Piano. Each of the four movements here has a bit of dark propulsive character to it; right from the startlingly menacing Prelude and the rather aggressive nature of the Tango. The work concludes with the Spanish-tinged Seguidilla. The whole work is highly impressive and ought to find its way onto a lot of flute recitals!

I was quite taken with the clever construction of Albarossa, a very engaging work for piccolo and marimba. This unusual combination works well in Groslot’s hands as the ability of both instruments to sound staccato and “flighty” is used wonderfully.  There is a wonderful contrast between this “hummingbird like” sound of the opening Vivace gives way to the lazier or patterned approach of the middle movements, Grazioso and Elegante. I were to use annotator Tom Janssens quite suitable analogy, if the hummingbird in the Vivace is flitting all around the marimba, I envision a looping – like a Moebius pattern – in the Grazioso. The closing Vivacissimo is spiky and somewhat jazzy. I enjoyed this work a great deal!

I found the tone and character of the Concerto for Piccolo and Ensemble quite a departure but one which shows Groslot’s range as a composer. This work is almost uncharacteristic in its use of the piccolo. For most of this intriguing work it becomes an instrument that can depict mystery and mood and, toward the end, some darker jazz inflections. This is a most impressive work.

The Four Dance Sketches almost doesn’t belong with the rest of this set. It is a very entertaining four movement work that features very nice and colorful lines for everything in the ensemble, including the piccolo and clarinet. The piano adds nice touches. This is a really clever work that contains elements of what one might mistake for Claude Bolling or Darius Milhaud or even John Adams… but I enjoyed it a great deal. My one quibble is that the booklet notes tell us less about this work than the others but that does nothing to detract from the listening experience.

The more I hear of Robert Groslot’s music the more I like it. His specialty certainly does seem to be wind repertoire but he has an infectious and unique style. His music does not fall stylistically into the milieu already characterized by so many of the American west coast wind ensemble composers. It is different and unique and highly enjoyable!  I intend to explore more as a musician and as a listener.  I suggest you do the same!

—Daniel Coombs