Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Francois Leleux
Bizet & Gounod
While he has a fine back catalogue of chamber music recordings as an ensemble leader, this is French oboist Francois Leleux’s debut album as conductor and soloist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with whom he has been an important regular guest conductor for a number of seasons.
For what we must hope will be the first of many recordings — by the estimable Philip Hobbs in Dundee’s Caird Hall — for Scotland’s Linn label, he has, naturally, chosen French repertoire, mixing the very familiar with the less well known.
The album begins with the Suite No 1 Ernest Guiraud made of Bizet’s music for Carmen, which bowls along beautifully, and it ends with the same composer’s Symphony No 1, written when he was a teenage student at the Paris Conservatoire in the 1850s but neither published nor performed until 1935. With a prominent oboe part at the start it may have obvious German models in its construction but is also a lovely example of the distinctive French way with writing for winds. That is even more true of the work that sits between them, Charles Gounod’s Petite Symphonie nonet for winds, on which Leleux himself joins now-departed SCO oboist Rosie Staniforth and the seasoned clarinet partnership of Maximiliano Martin and William Stafford. Beautifully melodic, the piece has the flute to the fore in the slow second movement, and the horns leading the pack in the Scherzo.