As Flute Journal approaches 1,000,000 page views, the feeling of maturity for our publication is reinforced when we find ourselves reviewing new recordings from artists or ensembles whose previous recordings we have already reviewed.
In November of 2017 we had the pleasure of reviewing a gorgeous recording, Sephardic Journey. by the Cavatina Duo which consists of the husband-wife team of Spanish flutist Eugenia Moliner and Bosnian guitarist Denis Azabagic.
Cavatina continues to build a reputation as one of the finest performance groups of its type in the world. “If there is a finer flute and guitar duo in the world than Cavatina Duo,” writes Ronald E. Grames in Fanfare magazine, “I have not heard them. Denis Azabagic and (his wife) flutist Eugenia Moliner are both world class virtuosi and brilliant musical interpreters.” Now Eugenia and Denis have issued a new recording, dedicated to the Folies d’Espagne by Marin Marais and the Twelve Fantasias of Georg Philipp Telemann. Their performance only adds to this reputation.
Quite apart from their immaculate musicianship, it has been their fresh approach to repertoire which this writer found most appealing about Cavatina. For many of our readers, however, this new offering may seem like an exception — after all, as a standard member of the baroque flute repertoire, there are multiple recordings of the Telemann. But a couple of things should be noted.
Regarding their repertoire, the duo’s tendency towards expanding musical horizons is an approach very much in keeping with the goals of Flute Journal, but to see the full effect we must cast our eye over their total output thus far. In a recording career extending over 20 years, (one which we will shortly be exploring in a retrospective) the duo has explored areas outside of standard repertoire, such as The Balkan Project, The Sephardic Journey and Meditación, as well as material that is becoming accepted in the mainstream, such as the work of Astor Piazzolla. But this has been alternated with such efforts as an exploration of standard repertoire such as 19th century operatic works with Cavatina At The Opera, including brilliant arrangements of arias from such works as Carmen, La Traviata, The Carnival of Venice. Along the way, the duo has established a relationship with contemporary composers such as Laurie Altman and David Leisner.
For their next venture, Cavatina Duo is plunging once more into new territory. (Details will be appearing very soon here at Flute Journal.) In this context, the current recording is completely logical, balancing the overall picture with an exploration of the centre of the Baroque literature for flute. Once again, however, Cavatina have introduced a new wrinkle.
Georg Philipp Telemann published four sets of fantasias for unaccompanied instruments, beginning with these 12 fantaisies à traversière sans basse and a set of thirty-six for harpsichord, in Hamburg in 1732–33, and two further collections — for solo violin and viola da gamba — in 1735. Rising to the level of favorite features for solo flute, these pieces have been performed and recorded by a wide range of flutists, from baroque experts such as Barthold Kuijlen on traverso, Frans Brūggen on recorder, and contemporary flutists from Jean-Pierre Rampal and Emmanuel Pahud to Jasmine Choi.
Indeed, a traul through Youtube will reveal that dozens of flutists of every stripe have tackled these works, and it is a tribute to Telemann that they have retained their appeal after almost 300 years. Cavatina Duo has contributed considerably to this process with their version. Apart from the brilliance they give to the performance, they have also transformed the piece with the help of distinguished guitarist/composer Alan Thomas who has added a guitar part, thus converting the solo fantasias into a piece for a duo. Following from his arrangements for Cavatina at the Opera, Thomas’ writing manages to avoid the impression of the guitar parts as mere accompaniment, although that is essentially what they are. The ear is still attracted to Moliner‘s brilliant unfolding of Telemann‘s fleet lines, but these now gain from being gently cushioned harmonically or mirrored melodically by an alternative line from Azabagic’s guitar. Magically, pieces that work beautifully as solos work equally well as duets. Magically, pieces we know all too well are transformed yet retain their identity. This is arranging of great sensitivity, for which Alan Thomas must take great credit. And the performances simply sparkle.
More popular than J.S. Bach in his day, (Bach‘s employers in Leipzig only hired him when they could not get Telemann!) Telemann’s reputation has been overtaken by the great master in subsequent years. Yet Telemann was a composer of great skill and imagination who represented everything that we love about the Baroque era. Performances such as this only contribute to his ongoing revival.
And yet here Telemann has to share the spotlight with a lesser known composer. Very little is known about the personal life of Marin Marais (1656 – 1728), particularly in his later life. (We do know that he was very prolific — he had 19 children!) We know that he was a master of the viol for which he was highly valued at the the royal court of Versailles where he was appointed as ordinaire de la chambre du roy pour la viole from 1679 to 1725. He studied composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, which is reflected in his piece Folies d’Espagne, here rendered by Cavatina Duo as the opener to this recording.
There is a tradition of French composers holidaying in Spain and returning to France to write quasi-Spanish music. If this was the case here — which we certainly do not know — he was no more successful than any other, but he has written a charming piece of French music which is beautifully rendered by Moliner and Azabagic as an opener to the album. In their hands these Folies lead beautifully into the Fantasias.
As we look forward to another exploration into new repertoire from Cavatina Duo, we should not overlook these performances of established music. We may have thought we knew it well — especially the Telemann — but these two talented performers have made it new again. Highly recommended!
Watch for a retrospective of recordings and an interview with Eugenia Moliner and Denis Azabagic coming here soon.
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