Flutist Kenneth Smith and pianist Paul Rhodes give a two-disc recital that contains some of the most calming music imaginable. Disc One features short pieces by British composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar, Howard Blake, Percy Grainger, William Lloyd-Webber, Cyril Scott, Peter Lamb, Frederick Delius, Gerald Finzi, William Walton, and Malcolm Arnold. While most readers will be familiar with the work of Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Delius, Walton, and Arnold, they might like to know more about the lesser-known composers. Howard Blake has written scores for children’s films, William Lloyd-Webber was the father of Andrew, and Cyril Scott was known as “The English Debussy.” I particularly enjoyed the Finzi Bagatelles because they were played with more variety of dynamics and tempo than most of the other selections. Blake’s Walking on Air [ sic ] is a rather new piece that has a delightful melody and should soon be better known. Smith and Rhodes give us delightfully piquant versions of the traditional folk tunes: Skye Boat Song , Music in the Street , and Golden Slumbers .
The second disc contains pieces by a much wider variety of composers. Smith and Rhodes play Debussy’s Clair de Lune with a languid quality that encourages daydreams. For flutists, it also suggests excellent breath control. The title The Expressive Flute certainly applies to Smith and Rhodes’s lustrous renditions of vocal works like Mendelssohn’s On Wings of Song , Rimsky Korsakov’s Chant Hindou (also known as The Song of India ), and Offenbach’s Barcarolle . Their arrangements are enthralling and they convey the meanings of these pieces without reference to their texts. Their playing of The Flight of the Bumblebee is one minute and nine seconds of pure virtuosity from both players. May it inspire young flutists to work toward achieving this goal! Smith and Rhodes follow it with a slow section from Khachaturian’s Spartacus that gives the listener a needed change of pace, as do Grieg’s Last Spring and Faur”e’s lullaby. They play Chopin’s Minute Waltz fast, but not at breakneck speed, so it takes a minute and a half. With Borodin’s exquisite Nocturne and Debussy’s picture of a beautiful blonde, The Girl with the Flaxen Hair , they remind us that composers of the past appreciated the gifts of nature.
Listeners may be surprised to hear the Hora Staccato played on a flute instead of the violin for which it was written, but it works very well. The disc concludes with Monti’s tantalizing Czárdás , which gradually increases speed to provide a rousing finale to this excellent two-disc set. The most comparable recordings are by James Galway, who plays Fauré’s Lullaby, Clair de Lune , and The Flight of the Bumblebee with orchestra. The sound on the Smith and Rhodes recording is clear and present with the flute in front of the piano. The first disc could be background music for an afternoon social gathering, but the second is more suited to more directed listening. Both are valuable for flutists who may want to play some of these selections at their recitals.