CECILE Chaminade (1857-1944), the Frenchwoman who used to be known, if at all, only as the composer of the once ubiquitous "Scarf Dance," is represented by two very attractive works on recent releases from RCA and Turnabout. On the former label, James Galway plays Chaminade's Concertino, Op. 107, as one of the four works in his package of French flute concertos with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Charles Dutoit (ARL1-3777). On the latter, Rosario Marciano plays the "Concertstueck" for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 40, as part of her collection of keyboard concertos by women composers (TV 34754; cassette, VoxCT-2276).
Actually, there is only one real concerto in the Galway collection: the celebrated Flute Concerto of Jacques Ibert. As one would expect, it receives an especially winning performance. The Chaminade Concertino, a one-movement affair running only 7 1/2 minutes, is a lovely, seductive thing, almost worth the price of the disc by itself -- but then, one might say that of any of the pieces Galway offers here.
Each of the remaining works is a transcription. One is a stunningly effective arrangement for flute and orchestra by Sir Lennox Berkeley of Francis Poulenc's Sonata for Flute and Piano. The orchestral writing seems thoroughly idomatic, and I would think this is the sort of thing any flutist would be happy to add to his/her repertory -- and any audience delighted to hear again and again. It is followed on side two by Galway's own orchestral setting of another work originally composed for flute and piano, the "Fantaisie," Op. 79, by Gabriel Faure.
The "Concertstueck" Rosario Marciano plays on Turnabout, with Louis de Froment conducting the Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg, was the work in which Chaminade made her American debut as pianist, with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1908. The orchestral writing is especially lush and colorful, and the piece makes a most agreeable impression, as does the once that precedes it on this disc, the Ballade for piano and orchestra by Germaine Talleferre, the lone female member of the group known as Les Six. Both of these sumptuous, well-crafted quarter-hour peices would be welcome replacements for such overexposed works as the Franck Symphonic Variations and Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy, especially if we could count on their being as well played as they are on this record.
On side two, with Kurtt Rapf and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra replacing the Luxembourgers, Marciano plays two simpler pices by a much earlier composer, Anna Amalia, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar (1739-1807) -- her Concerto for 12 Instruments and cembalo for piano and strings. Both of these, too, are agreeable works and handsomely played, but it is to the French side that most listeners will find themselves retuning more eagerly.
Another French "discovery" or "rediscovery" is offered by Richard Bonynge, who conducts the National Philharmonic in the complete score to Massenet's ballet "Cigale" on a new London disc (CS-7163). This characteristically Gallic revision of the fable of the grasshopper and the ant (with the roles pointedly reversed) drew a most enjoyable, if not especially memorable, score from Massenet, who knew a good-tune when he found one and knew also how to dress it up the best effect. Among those in this score are an old French Christmas carol, the familiar folk song "Au clair de la lune," and a tune strangely similar to that of the finale of Brahms' orchestral Serenade Op. 11. At the end there is a brief but touching passagee for women's chorus with a solo alto, and the ballet score is followed on side two by the trivial but endearing "Valse tres lente." s"Cigale," a nice companion piece to Debussy ballet "La Boite a joujoux," should be especially welcome at this time of the year for its seasonal references and overall holiday air. A lovely job on the part of Mr. Bonynge, his players and the engineers, and what a delight to have London releases now in superb Dutch pressings.