Romantic Music for Flute and Harp

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To be accurate, this collection should have been entitled "Transcriptions of Romantic Music for Flute and Harp," since all but three of the pieces were arranged by harpist Nóra Mercz. Beyond that quibble, the disc is a pleasant but fairly bland confection that is almost too perfectly suited for background listening. The combination of János Bálint's consistently sweet flute playing and Mercz's reverberant accompaniment may be agreeable in small doses, but the charm wears off after only a few tracks. Taken individually, each piece is well executed and played with warmth, and listeners will find many of them to be familiar. Bizet's Intermezzo from Carmen and his Minuet from L'Arlésienne are among the best known, along with Gluck's Dance of the Blessed Spirits, Mozart's Andante, and the "Hindu Song" from Sadko by Rimsky-Korsakov. Massenet's "Méditation" from Thaïs is also famous, but as a rapturous, ephemeral violin solo; the transition to the flute's rounder sonority is not quite successful. Debussy's En bateau and Ravel's Vocalise-Étude en forme de Habanera offer a slight change of mood, though this may not matter if the duo's tone colors have already started to pall on the listener. The Chopin Variations and Strauss' Tritsch-Tratsch Polka are the liveliest selections, though the contrast they provide is too little, too late.

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