Concert Reviews | CD Reviews | DVD Reviews | Opera | Early Music | News | Film | Art | Books | Kids

5.5.06

Paula Robison, One Hundred Roses

Available on Amazon:
available at Amazon
One Hundred Roses (works by various composers), Paula Robison, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, David Stahl (released on January 16, 2006)
Flutist Paula Robison, Donna Hieken Flute Chair at New England Conservatory, is a leading champion of many types of music in her concerts and recordings, notably that of Brazilian, contemporary, and experimental composers. The last time that Ionarts heard her play live was as part of the tribute concert for Tōru Takemitsu at the Library of Congress last fall. Her performance of Takemitsu's Voice (1971) was riveting. For her new recording, she has selected far less intellectually challenging repertoire. In fact, One Hundred Roses is exactly what its packaging announces, a fluffy collection of mostly pretty love songs, the secular equivalent for the flute of Renée Fleming's Sacred Songs. In keeping with the saccharine idea behind the program, Ms. Robison's acknowledgments in the liner notes, bearing the heading "Bouquet of Thanks," encourage the listener with the Hallmark blessing, meant to be sincere, "May this music fill your hearts as it has ours." Artistic self-indulgence is one of the risks that musicians run when they have their own recording labels -- Ms. Robison directs Pergola Recordings and was her own executive producer for this recording.

Framing the title work are flute chestnuts, some more familiar than others. Benjamin Godard's Allegretto is a frothy minute and a half of runs, which whets one's appetite for yet more runs in Cécile Chaminade's op. 107 Concertino. (The latter piece is so popular with flutists that Mrs. Ionarts, who is a flutist and heard me listening to it, called out, "Is that the Chaminade?" The work is simply The Chaminade.) At just over 10 minutes, Charles Griffes's Debussyesque Poem is really not much more substantial than the shorter pieces. Robison's own arrangement of Massenet's Meditation from Thaïs would make a great Romantic addition, in all its cloying glory, to a well-rounded program. Here it gets lost in the treacle. Camille Saint-Saëns's op. 37 Romance is a gentle adagio that is, once again, a pretty piece.

As for One Hundred Roses, Daniel Paget's arrangement of seven serenades and other melodies by Italian composers, you will likely be hearing it on the sound system during your next visit to Olive Garden or a similar bad Italian restaurant. Let me just say that Paula Robison is an extraordinary flutist, a respected teacher, and she performs a lot of challenging music. This recording, however, is a lightweight disappointment. It's all beautifully rendered, with Ms. Robison's silvery, knife-edge tone cutting through brilliantly. However, I cannot help but think of this disc as more appropriate as background music for country club receptions than as serious listening. It is a table of desserts rather than a satisfying meal. Be warned before listening: it's all empty calories.

No comments: