Greatest Hits Of The Flute, featuring Jean-Pierre Rampal, William Bennett, and Paula Robison
From time to time I enjoy listening to greatest hits albums  or other such compilations, and when I saw this collection of greatest hits at my local library I was greatly intrigued and thought it would be worthwhile to listen to as a way of relaxing at the end of the day. Given that there is a fair amount of looseness with regards to what counts as a ‘greatest hit’ considering that none of these particular songs has to my knowledge charted on anything and would be unlikely to chart on anything other than the classical charts, at the very least I am somewhat familiar with many of the songs and that is probably a good enough measure of what counts for a hit song from an instrument I do not happen to know well. With that said, a track by track review follows:
Vivaldi: I–Allegro: This piece begins the album in a promising fashion, with a delightful flute over a larger string ensemble, which promises well in terms of making this an interesting collection. This Allegro comes from the Flute Concerto, a piece that Vivaldi write apart from his more famous Four Seasons, and it a lovely piece.
Bach: II–Largo: This piece is a nice contrast from the previous one in being a bit slower from one of Bach’s flute concertos, but there is an orchestral background which makes this lovely as well.
Bach: Badinerie: Carrying on from the last piece comes this one from Bach’s Orchestral Suite #2, and this one has a nice mixture of fast and slow parts, demonstrating the flute’s fitness as a lead instrument in classical music, something that is admittedly fairly rare at least for me to see or hear as a string player.
Bach: Siciliano: This lovely and short piece does not last long enough to make a strong impression, but neither is it irritating or annoying either. One just wishes there was more of it to enjoy.
Gluck: Dance of the Blessed Spirits: This piece is moving and somewhat slow, as it appears that the composer wished to convey in this piece the tranquility of the blessed spirits who have entered the Kingdom of God, which admittedly seems more like something that would help one sleep peacefully, although that is not a bad thing for an insomniac like myself.
Gossec: Gavotte: This piece tends to blend into the last one, making it hard to distinguish, but also lovely in its own way.
Greensleeves: If there is one undisputed flute hit, this one is it, and the performance is a lovely one that includes some touching strings as well as the gorgeous flute solo.
Saint-Saens: The Birds: Another familiar piece, this one is charmingly played and lasts far too short. Indeed, that is the real issue I have with this collection so far, in that the pieces fly by so quickly, it seems. Maybe they just seem shorter than they are.
Tchaikovsky: Chinese Dance: This is a beautiful piece but is a bit brief and did not leave a very lasting impression on me while I was listening to it.
Tchaikovsky: Dance Of The Reed Flutes: This lively piece was enjoyable and made for an excellent conclusion to the mini-suite of Tchaikovsky’s flute work shown here to great effect.
Faurè: Sicilienne: This was a lively piece and I wish I would have been able to hear more of it. The rapid flute work was particularly impressive, and definitely made an impression on me as a listener, something that I cannot say about every track so far.
Bizet: Intermezzo: This piece is a rather slow one, form the Carmen suite, and it has lovely strings that help to cover when the flute is silent or particularly soft.
Bizet: Minuet: Blending seamlessly into the previous track, this song was lovely as well, even though it came from a different piece. This song is actually one of the longer pieces on the album, and shows a tranquil flute with some touching flourishes to add excitement.
Debussy: Syrinx: This piece is a slow one and a lovely one, with plenty of trills. It features some lovely flute playing and was certainly an enjoyable listen.
Debussy: L’Apres-Midi D’un Faune: This song, as perhaps is a bit of a running joke, blends so well into the last piece is it hard to tell them apart. It is a lovely piece that does swell and so there is at least some variation in its sound from soft to loud, and from solo flute to powerful string orchestra. This is also one of the longer tracks of the album, it should be noted, at almost 10 minutes, which explains why some of the other pieces appear so short in comparison.
Massenet: Meditation: This gentle and slow piece is a worthwhile meditation, and the flute is at its most solemn and meditative here, with some suitably subdued strings in the background to add variety.
Genin: Carnival Of Venice: This lively piece closes the album with a suitably upbeat scene of the kind that would be expected from a much more familiar composer. Although this is by no means the most familiar song on the album, it is one of the more distinctive, and that is certainly something to appreciate. This piece is also the longest one on the album at almost 15 minutes, making it interesting to note that the album back loads its long songs, a very unusual strategy.
This is an interesting album to look at for a few reasons. For one, almost half of the content of the album is made up of the last two songs, making the first fifteen tracks seem very short in comparison. Additionally, the album has a different order than it shows on the liner notes on the back of the cd, and that could create some problems for someone listening to the album without being able to consult the inside text while listening to the album. There is usually sufficient variation to tell different composers apart, but not always enough variation to tell different songs from the same composer, signifying that the mix was made a bit too similar, as tends to happen in greatest hits compilations that are often a bit less than the sum of their parts. At any rate, if you like flutes and string orchestras, this will probably be an enjoyable listen.
 See, for example: