DiTullio flute CD311

Louise DiTullio (flute)
Jacques Ibert (1890-1962)
Concertino for flute and orchestra (1934)
Pierre-Max Dubois (1930-1995)
Concerto for flute and orchestra (pre-1975)
Frank Martin (1890-1974)
Ballade for flute, string orchestra and piano (1939)
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Sonata for flute and piano (1943)
Pierre Sancan (1916-2008)
Sonatine for flute and piano (1946)
Virginia DiTullio (piano)
English Chamber Orchestra/Elgar Howarth
rec. c.1975-76, Crystal LPs S311 and S503
Crystal Records CD311 [76]

These recordings were first issued on two LPs in the mid-70s and form part of Louise DiTullio’s
extensive discography, as she is widely known for her appearances in film and television scores. The restoration of her recordings here, concertos alongside sonatas, offers a rounded portrait and good programming. The disc is dedicated to her sister Virginia, who died in 2017, and who accompanies her when she’s not joined by Elgar Howarth and the English Chamber Orchestra.

Ibert’s Flute Concerto gets the disc off to an agile start, its wake-up calls contrasting with moments of languid Gallic warmth and wit. The long-breathed demands of the first movement are well met – it was written for Marcel Moyse – and the neo-classical imperatives generate vitality throughout. The slow movement is warmly lyric and deftly orchestrated. The finale meanwhile is full of coquettish elan, with a finely played cadenza, and a slow, refined panel prefiguring the flighty triumphant end. DiTullio plays with admirable poise, negotiating the elfin and the brash moments alike with considerable skill. Howarth, too, and the ECO play their full share.

Pierre-Max Dubois was still very much alive when the recording of his Concerto was made. It’s a much more compact work than the Ibert; in fact, it’s not much longer than the Ibert finale. Opening with a Perpetuum mobile Presto leggiero, it then evokes a more wistful, musing stance in the antique-sounding Pavane (but antique only in nomenclature). The Gavotte that follows exudes sheer charm and has enough harmonic twists and tight dissonances to keep things alive. Pirouetting vitesse marks out the finale. This is an effervescent and engaging work and receives a suitably energising performance.

Unlike Dubois, Frank Martin had just died when this recording of his Ballade was released. Composed in 1939 and orchestrated in 1941 – the orchestra includes a prominent piano part – it’s a work of sinuous interest. It houses a film noir cum jazz section where the piano drives the music forward, and a slow section that relaxes tension. In fact, the music relinquishes and then redoubles its grip until the final cadences and eight minutes pass in a flash.

The sonata LP includes both Prokofiev and Pierre Sancan. Prokofiev’s Sonata of 1943 is now better known in its guise as the Violin Sonata of 1944 but this is a fluent, tonally refined and fluidly dispatched reading with Virginia DiTullio playing a full part in its success. Sancan’s Sonatine dates from 1946 when he was 30 and is couched in the Lithe Gallic school. It is, in fact, a competition piece in three sections – exciting, limpid and eventful with interspersing cadenzas. There’s some unexpectedly fine writing for the piano which elevates the piece way beyond the normal set piece. Full marks to Sancan for writing so dextrous and engaging a work and for the DiTullio sisters for playing it with such commitment.

Crystal’s original recording was excellent and there are some attractive notes. This was well worth the reissue.

Jonathan Woolf

Availability: Crystal Records