Nolwenn Bargin


Photo: Marco Borggeve

Nolwenn Bargin flute

Maki Wiederkehr piano

Ensemble Chant du Vent

Finely composed melodies in Philippe Gaubert’s (1879-1941) tonal language encompass a wide range of emotions. Within his sound, an impressionistic flavor unfolds, even welcoming exotic notes. All this sophistication notwithstanding, the Frenchman’s compositions remain surprisingly light-footed as the flute takes center stage. However, most of Gaubert’s compositions remain little-known. A new recording by French-Swiss flutist Nolwenn Bargin, together with the chamber ensemble Chant du Vent, which she founded, changes that.

These days, Philippe Gaubert’s work often hides in the shadows of Claude Debussy and his timeless radiance. But Gaubert could rightly be called the precursor or sometimes contemporary of Debussy’s in a stylistic sense. For this recording, Nolwenn Bargin and the Ensemble Chant du Vent chose chamber music compositions which demonstrate that Gaubert was intimately tuned in to the musical developments in France during the 20th century – almost functioning as a sensitive seismograph. This flutist, conductor, and composer was committed to “his” instrument like no other. He had studied with the great flutist Paul Taffanel at the conservatory of Paris. Later, he became a teacher himself, and co-created a new, progressive school of flute music which remains of canonical importance today.

On this CD, Nolwenn Bargin and the ensemble Chant du Vent show the entire width of expression of this musician. A typical French tendency for the atmospheric goes hand in hand with virtuosic challenges. An intense aura emanates from his “Sicilenna,” written in 1914. How much the potential of this instrument and its player are being teased out despite the light-footed appearance of these works can be seen in “Fantasy for flute and piano,” which was created two years earlier and inspired by Gabriel Fauré.

Gaubert’s immense curiosity for exotic stylistic influences, but also for compositional techniques from old music, shines through in the dance-like, cheery “Medaille Antiques” and a Madrigal adaptation. Just like Claude Debussy, Philippe Gaubert was fascinated by foreign musical cultures, especially those from the Far East. Likewise, Gaubert followed a musical impressionism which was grounded in an examination of visual sources of inspiration. This becomes especially clear in character pieces like “Soir sur la plaine” and “Orientale.” A real bravado piece for Nolwenn Bargin and her fellow musicians is the “Tarantella” for flute, oboe, and piano from 1903 – which, by the way, was Philippe Gaubert’s very first publication. Like a delicate daydream with a decent dose of Chopin appears the “Nocturne et Allegro” from 1906. Using an antique Greek tonal system, and marked by musical sensuality, two flutes and a harp communicate with one another in Gaubert’s “Divertissimo.” At the conclusion of this CD program, two intimate miniatures, “Sur l’eau” and “Berceuse,” densify the mood of the moment.

Nolwenn Bargin

Nolwenn Bargin is a French-Swiss flutist with roots in Breton. At the young age of eleven, she began her studies at the Paris conservatory. Engagements with the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen, at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, and with the Berlin Philharmonics soon followed. Currently, she is solo flutist at Musikkollegium Winterthur and, since 2017, a professor at the Vorarlberger Landeskonservatorium Feldkirch in Austria. Nolwenn Bargin is a dedicated chamber musician and in this capacity has worked with Lise de la Salle, Kit Armstrong, Nicolas Altstaedt, Ian Bostridge, José Cura, and Emmanuel Pahud. Bargin dedicated her first recording, under the label Claves records, to the works of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Recently, she performed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s concert for flute and harp together with Anneleen Lenaerts and the orchestra of the Musikkollegium Winterthur.

Maki Wiederkehr

Maki Wiederkehr studied piano in the soloist class of Prof. Homerop Francesch at the Zurich Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK). In 2011, she completed her soloist diploma with Ravel’s concert for left hand and orchestra. Maki Wiederkehr has been awarded various prizes as soloist as well as with her own ensemble, the Trio Rafaele, in Switzerland and abroad. She has played many concerts, among others at Philharmonie Berlin, Alte Oper Frankfurt, Prague Spring, Wigmore Hall London, during the Galway Festival Dublin, the December Nights of Sviatoslav Richter Moscow, and at Lucerne Festival and Menuhin Festival Gstaad. As part of the Trio Rafaele, the pianist has already recorded two CDs with works by Schumann, Ravel, Brahms, and Vasks. In 2017, her third CD, with works by Debussy, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, Henze, and Geger was released under the label Coviello Classics.

Ensemble Chant du Vent

Her ensemble Chant du Vent, which she founded with pianist Maki Wiederkehr, is among Nolwenn Bargin’s favorite projects. The name of the ensemble mirrors its programmatic idea and relates to a quote by Claude Debussy: “Music is a free form of art, it bubbles forth freely, it’s a pleinair style art, an art modeled after the elements, the wind, the sky, the sea!” Accordingly, their artistic vision is especially free, allowing the ensemble to engage with a diverse spectrum of chamber music. The instrumentations in which Chant du Vent performs are as flexible as possible in an effort to make the sound worlds of a respective composition as tangible as possible. Héléna Macherel (flute), Olivier Blache (violin), Maria Sournatcheva (oboe) and Flurin Cuonz (cello) are all part of the ensemble Chant du Vent.