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The Age of Elegance 18th century music for flute and strings The Galeazzi Ensemble

J C Bach Flute Quartet in C (1776) Allegro; Rondo grazioso

J Haydn Flute Quartet in G (1768) Presto assai; Minuetto; Adagio; Presto

J S Bach arr Mozart: String trio in d minor K404a Prelude; Fugue

F A Hoffmeister Flute Quartet in A Op27 no2 Allegro; Adagio; Presto

I Pleyel Flute Quartet in D Op25 no1 Allegro; Adagio; Rondo (Allegro)

Recorded in St Andrewis Church, Toddington 28-30 May 2001 London Independent Records LIR001

Lesley Holliday: flute Richard Wade: violin Virginie Guiffray: viola Gareth Deats: cello

The flute quartet was a popular format for chamber music in the later 18th century, but its popularity did not survive well into the 19th century and it has been a somewhat neglected combination ever since. The fact that this programme contains flute quartets by four important figures in the development of chamber music around the turn of the century proves the point. That the Galeazzi Ensemble felt confident that they did not even need to record the flute quartets of Mozart perhaps makes it even clearer; there is no shortage of repertoire out there. While the J C Bach and the Haydn may well be familiar, the Hoffmeister and the Pleyel will probably not be. Pleyel in particular is a fascinating figure and a composer of real substance, much under-rated even today. The fast movements of the D major quartet, both over six minutes long show compositional breadth and developmental ability that easily justifies the recording of this work. It will be interesting to see if the Galeazzi Ensemble make more use of Op25 in further discs.

Given that this seems to be the first release from London Independent Records (judging by the disc number LIR001) it is impressively recorded. There is a good balance of depth to brightness and the flute and strings blend beautifully. Lesley Holliday is certainly a find; there is, in her traverso playing, none of the so often encountered fuzzy breath noise, rather, a directness of timbre and a fullness of tone that compliments the strings well. At no point is there any sense that the string players feel the need to hold back and, although this is clearly young person's interpretation, full of energy and vigour, it suits the chosen repertoire well. The string players get their solo spot in the Mozart arrangement of a Bach prelude and fugue and this makes for a good contrast. Intonation is excellent throughout, and, like the traverso, the strings have no sense of thinness in the sound. One gets the impression that these young players have been steeped in the performances of groups like the Quator Mosaique string quartet, a group that has taken the vegetarianism out of period instrument chamber music.

In general, this disc presents attractive late 18th / early 19th century chamber music showing all of the advantages of period instruments without displaying the oft-criticised weaknesses. Enjoyable music played with enthusiasm and freshness. Highly recommendable listening.

Peter Wells

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