During his lifetime, Philippe Gaubert was far better known as an interpreter rather than as composer; flutist Paul Taffanel's prize student, Gaubert began conducting in 1904 and his career in that respect stretched all the way until his death in 1941. However, Gaubert's music remains little known outside flute circles, and runs only to about 80 compositions; like Mahler and Furtwängler, Gaubert remained so busy on the podium that he was limited to being a "weekend composer." Heretofore, recorded recitals devoted to Gaubert have focused on his flute music; for the most part, so does Fuga Libera's Philippe Gaubert: Chamber Music, featuring the Trio Wiek and its outstanding flutist Christina Fassbender, but it casts the net a little wider to include a couple of Gaubert's cello pieces, as well.
The Trois Aquarelles for flute, cello, and piano, and Gaubert's second and third sonatas for flute and piano (he wrote five) are fairly standard items in the French flute realm and have been recorded a number of times. Gaubert's music is graceful, pleasant, and ingratiating, not to mention very friendly to the flute. Melodies soar and Gaubert's harmonies radiate with warm, impressionistic colors; for example, take the lovely Andante of the Flute Sonata No. 2. But it is not terribly serious music and in some ways is lacking in strong formal construction. If one likes to listen passively and desires gentle, unobtrusive music, then this disc is wonderful for that, though the tone of the flute is rather bright in the recording, so backing down on the high end a bit helps take the edge off. Listeners who tend to have active and analytical ears might take issue with Gaubert's shortcuts, apparent disinterest in typical forward development schemes, and "wham, bam, thank you ma'am"-type endings to movements. Gaubert may not have been a great composer like Mahler, but unlike Furtwängler he wasn't under the misapprehension that he was writing great music; for Gaubert, composing was a diversion and a pastime that he enjoyed. So it's not really fair to hold him to the same standard that one would use to measure his more ambitious contemporaries. The performances here are certainly fine, and other than the already mentioned sharpness to the flute's tone, this Fuga Libera recording serves Gaubert's music well.