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The Consort

Lisa Beznosiuk

Summer 2009, Vol. 65

François Devienne
Flute Concerto no.11 in B minor
Edition HH, HH228.FSP, Bicester, 2008 (pbk £11.95)
ISMN 979 0 708059 56 1

The prolific composer François Devienne (1759-1803), a Parisian flautist and bassoonist, is probably best known today for his flute tutor entitled Méthode de Flute Théorique et Practique, published in 1793. He wrote and published over three hundred works (mainly for wind instruments) and this flute concerto, the latest in Edition HH's enterprising and rewarding classical series, with its dazzling and uncompromising virtuosity, is a typical example of Devienne's free and ebullient writing.

The concerto employs just about every technical device available on the classical one-keyed flute of the day: soaring high phrases, fast roulades from top to bottom of the instrument (and vice versa!), speedy octaves both slurred and tongued, relentless semiquaver passagework necessitating both double and triple tonguing, extreme leaps, trills galore… and, apparently, almost no empty bars! In performance, the solo flautist would do well to abstain from playing in the tutti sections, to give him/herself a break and to vary the texture. This is terrific practice material for any flautist, and would make an impressive competition piece.

Jennifer Caesar's edition is beautifully clear, with a minimum of editorial interference, and this is utterly appropriate in such a virtuosic piece, where unnecessary slurring and articulation might only serve to confuse or divert the flautist. The concerto is very substantial - the outer movements are both over 200 bars long. The slow movement, entitled Adagio, is a simple harmonic structure in G major with a highly ornamented solo flute part. It gracefully winds down to an F# pedal point and a long flute trill, providing the soloist with an ideal opportunity for a cadenza, before racing off into another cascade of semiquavers in the final Allegro.

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