“Hollywood meets Gaubert!”
Pan - Journal of the British Flute Society
Composed as a competition piece for the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp in Belgium, this 1948 Arabesque et Scherzo by Jef Maes supplies technical hurdles and true beauty aplenty. Written for flute and piano, the classic duo provides a stunning film-like soundtrack, supplying hints and touches of Hindemith, Gaubert and Enescu.
The opening movement, Arabesque, allows the flute to sing, showing off the flute’s ability to provide vibrant dolce lines. The piano supports the flute with sustained chords, moving in stepwise motion, creating a rich indulgent texture. Hereafter, the flute and piano share a more collaborative and intimate interaction “calling and responding” to one another, equally dividing the delightful flourishes with the sustained lines.
The Scherzo carries a simple piano line to start, complimented by the flute’s rapid and playful attitude, providing a some-what uncomplicated and transparent opening. Throughout the Scherzo, there are subtle changes of tempo keeping both listener and performer on their toes. These tempi changes, guided with gentle yet effective dynamics, contribute to the overall ambience of the music.
Arabesque et Scherzo by Maes is the perfect piece for a competition, ideal for students of advanced ability, providing a beautiful contrast in recital programmes. It is a wonderful work, approxi-mately 6 minutes in length, that offers technical challenges and musical passages galore, and in my opinion, should be included more often to the flute canon.
From the Publisher
Belgian composer Jef "Joseph" Maes (1905 – 1996) often described himself as a "modern romantic," and his 1948 Arabesque and Scherzo for flute and piano (written as a concours piece for the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp in Belgium) is a testament to that label. Quite aside from its appeal to flutists as a competition work - with its origins as a concours piece allowing the player to display both technical and musical prowess - the music itself holds touches of Korngold and early Hindemith in its lush melodies and moments of sultry film music. And, though Maes held no truck with most elements of modernism, his clever take on neo-romantic harmony and a healthy touch of humor keeps the piece sounding fresh and appealing. Constructed on the model of more famous Paris Conservatoire pieces - Gaubert's Nocturne et Allegro Scherzando, for example, or Enesco's Cantabile et Presto - the Arabesque and Scherzo revels in the two-movement format. The opening Arabesque allows the flutist to sing, with ornamentation and figurations highlighting the flute's ability to color octave-spanning melody with technique. The Scherzo alternates between action sequences and moments of reverie, but always with an ear towards vivid musicality and clear conversation between flute and piano.
Difficulty level, roughly compared to ABRSM exam grades. 0 is beginner, 9 is advanced (beyond grade 8).