International Record Review

This recital brings together five staples of the repertory. Since the programme consciously steers clear of frightening the horses, in terms of tonality or idiom, its success depends on its ability to convince consistently, and indeed to find something new to offer in familiar territory. My initial assessment remained fairly intact after listening to the whole recording, which is that Odinn Baldvinsson is a consummately equipped player, capable of terrific fingerwork and able to sustain lines with formidable stamina. On the flip side I feel that there is a tendency to place slickness over amiability and tonal flexibility, so that one hankers after a fuller compendium of expressive ideas at times.

Take Borne’s Fantaisie Brillante sur ‘Carmen’ , for example, which, while daringly paced in the virtuosic passages, can come over as a little matter-of-fact in the less frenzied, playful corners. In the Bach, Baldvinsson sets up a clear stylistic framework – the playing is nimble and efficient as ever – but sometimes passes up opportunities to take the listener on an expressive journey, pointing out the more interesting landmark along the way. In the Prokofiev Sonata there is good bite to the sound, especially in the gutsy Scherzo , but the Andante – a difficult movement to pull off – seems to warrant extra spontaneity.

The Poulenc Sonata, which came to fruition in 1957 and was given its inauguration by the great Jean-Pierre Rampal, certainly continues to be a favourite with players and audiences alike. Baldvinsson takes the opening movement, Allegro malincolico , a fair bit faster than Bennett and Pahud (and is more than 30 seconds brisker than Baker), and this does seem to bear itself out in the weighting and pacing of phrases generally. The Baker performance is very shapely and supple, even if the rhythmic freedom taken seems fractionally excessive to ‘contain’ the playing. Ironically, perhaps, while Baker’s is the most spacious first movement, his is the liveliest second movement, Cantilena , and by a conspicuous measure, though we should bear in mind that it is a live recording. Bennett is jubilant and commanding throughout, especially in the finale. Presto giocoso , where pianist Clifford Benson’s rhythmic joie de vivre is quite superb, in the Baldvinsson performance, pianist Patricia Romero is certainly a willing advocate of the impetuous spirit evinced by the flautist, attacking the keys with verve and keeping the playing firmly on the move. On the whole I would commend the partnership for their bright-eyed vision of the Sonata. Yet, for its supremely sophisticated, elastic sound and responsiveness to the ever-switching moods, in this mini Poulenc contest Pahud, accompanied by Eric Le Sage, wins hands down (and, incidentally, Pahud is absolutely pristine in the Presto giocoso too).

Taken as a whole, the Baldvinsson/Romero duo have much to look forward to (this is their début recording). At their best – the Saint-Saëns Romance has some really beautiful, restrained lines – the playing is deserving of serious estimation.

—Mark Tanner