On this CD of opera pieces arranged for piccolo and flute duo (accompanied by piano, largely in a very simple continuo style), piccoloist Jean-Louis Beaumadier and flutist Shigenori Kudo present a well-curated collection for our enjoyment.
Beaumadier’s piccolo tone is liquid and reedy, with no hint of a hard edge even as he gracefully arpeggios to a third-octave B-natural. Kudo’s flute tone is similarly relaxed, coordinated closely and carefully with Beaumadier in terms of tone color, vibrato speed and depth, etc. Intonation throughout, even on notoriously difficult intervals such as the octave unison and the two-octave unison, is pleasingly aligned and seemingly effortless.
Guidi’s buoyant piano accompaniment follows the duo closely at all times, staying true to a clear bel canto philosophy: always make certain that the melody wins the day! The ensemble’s flawless command of the frequent rubato sections makes it obvious that Beaumadier and Kudo have worked long and hard on issues of interpretation and on coordination of their ornamentation. Meanwhile, Guidi’s deft accompaniment would seamlessly follow the two woodwinds to the ends of the earth if necessary.
The disc opens with a playful, flirtatious Allegro Vivo from Rigoletto on the themes of Verdi (Giuseppe Rabboni), the melody alternating from lithe, playful triplets to a lively cascade of 16th notes. Beaumadier’s command of trills and other ornamentation is clearly on display on this track, essentially a theme and variations form, as is his ability to beautifully taper a phrase to a fine point at its end. A more strongly-stated Andante Mosso follows, but even this more emphatic second section ends with a light-hearted, triplet-based feeling.
Lucia de Lamermoor (on themes of Donizetti) by Cesar Ciardi follows, beginning with dramatic diminished chords in the accompaniment and flashy arpeggios from the winds. Near the 4:00 mark, a profound shift into a more placid, major-key section begins, growing in intensity almost to the end of the track, where the flute is given the melody while the piccolo trills an lively accompaniment, hovering like a hummingbird. Then it’s on to the triumphant recapitulation and a race to the finish.
A preview of the trio’s material can be found on iSound.
Beaumadier studied flute at the Marseille Conservatory, where his teacher was Joseph Rampal (father of Jean-Pierre Rampal, perhaps the 20th century's most famous flutist.) Later his studies shifted to the Conservatoire National de Musique de Paris, where he studied with the younger Rampal. Piccolo has been a specific area of interest for him since childhood. He held the solo piccolo chair for the National Orchestra of France for over a decade and later performed under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, and Lorin Maazel, among others.
Kudo, a native of Sapporo, Japan, studied at the Toho Gakuen School of Music. He later continued his studies with Jean-Pierre Rampal at the Conservatoire de Paris, where he won First Prize in 1979. Remaining in Paris, he made his debut there with Jean-Pierre Rampal at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees. He has collaborated as a soloist with orchestras under the direction of such conductors as Seiji Ozawa, Leonard Slatkin, and Horst Stein.
Other tracks on the release include Un Bal Masque (also based on Donizetti’s works), Mefistofele (on themes of Boito) and Aida (Verdi again) by Luigi Hughes. The disc closes with Maria Padilla (based on Donizetti themes) by Ciardi.
At several points on the album, the listener is challenged to discern whether it’s the flute or the piccolo that’s playing a given melodic line. This ambiguous sound is a credit to Beaumadier’s extremely supple piccolo technique. His tone soars easily, never approaching shrillness.
Jean-Pierre Rampal said of Beaumadier: “Endowed with marvelous technique, he stood out thanks to his winning personality and his developed artistry. It is a joy to hear him dream and turn pirouettes: he is the Paganini of the piccolo.” Frenchman Beaumadier’s expressive Italian alter-ego is happily in evidence throughout the length of Piccolo et Flute a l’Opera. The release would be a worthy addition to the collection of any opera lover, as well as all who have a particular affection for sensitive ensemble playing in general and the flauto piccolo in particular.
From the GBFA Gazette
(the Greater Boston Flute Association)
Piccolo et Flute a l’Opera
Jean-Louis Beaumadier, piccolo
Shigenori Kudo, flute
Anne Guidi, piano
Skarbo / France
(available via Amazon, Rhapsody, eMusic, etc.)