Le Petit Trianon
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Devienne is one of these composers who is more often cited than performed, working in France at the crucial transition between the Baroque and Classical styles – his influence can be heard in the ‘pre-classical’ music composed in Mannheim and even in the early music of Mozart. A wind player who played flute and bassoon expertly as well as being acquainted with the other wind instruments, Devienne was an early champion of the clarinet. He composed in a wide range of genres, including large-scale sacred music and opera, as well as ground-breaking symphonies concertants, but is perhaps most admired for his chamber music, represented here by three of his op 66 flute trios and two of his op 17 bassoon trios. These are works of apparently effortless originality, which reflect the composer’s intimate understanding of the respective wind instruments. A notable workaholic, who combined eight hours of composition a day with regular performances, official duties as a professor at the Conservatoire and even found time to compile an influential method for playing the flute, Devienne eventually burned himself out, spending his final months in an asylum, where he died in his mid-forties. The present selection of chamber music is played with consummate expertise and considerable musicality bringing out the unique qualities of Devienne’s compositions. This was music which looked to the future, and it is fascinating to hear how his influence flowed down through the ensuing generations. It is good to see young French musicians exploring so sympathetically the music of such an important French composer, once considered ‘the French Mozart’ and whose music and career have slipped mysteriously into relative obscurity.
D. James Ross