When Worcester flutist Linda Bento-Rei was at a flutist's convention in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, she wasn't particularly enthused with a suggestion that she attend a concert featuring Concert à Cinq by Belgian composer Joseph Jongen. 

For one thing, who was/is he? 

"A friend of mine dragged me to the concert," Bento-Rei recalled. "I wanted to go to another concert." 

She soon changed her tune. 

The performance of the work — for flute, string trio and harp — by Arpea Ensemble was "magical," she said. The music was a revelation. 

"It was incredible, it was so intense." 

There were about 200 flute players in the audience, who can be a tough crowd on such occasions, Bento-Rei noted. By the end of the performance, "There wasn't a dry eye." 

Bento-Rei wasn't familiar with the work of Jongen (1873-1953), a composer, organist and educator who, while well-regarded in his time, has slipped into obscurity. 

"Not at all," she said. 

She is much better versed now. Bento-Rei's first CD, "The Jongen Project," has just been released consisting of four of Jongen's chamber music compositions for flute and other instruments including Concert à Cinq. A CD release concert was performed Jan. 5 in Brown Hall at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where Bento-Rei earned a master of music degree in flute performance. 

"Obviously, I'm having a love affair with his music," Bento-Rei said of Jongen. Being "dragged" to that concert "created a whole chain of serendipitous events. I would never have considered a recording project." 

Jongen's music has been termed as "civilized yet sensual." A description of Concert à Cinq once called the first movement "shot through with sunlight," the slow second movement "pensive," and the final movement evocative of a Spanish rhapsody. 

Bento-Rei had been so impressed she bought the score and "put it on my project list." 

There it sat for a while. However, when her mother became gravely ill with Alzheimer's disease (Margaret "Mary" Bento died in December 2010) Bento-Rei said she was looking for "a distraction." She looked at her project list and remembered how deeply emotional and rich Jongen's music had struck her. 

"It just seemed to be the perfect conduit to let go all the grief. The perfect music." 

Bento-Rei gathered an ensemble of accomplished musicians and put on several concerts of Concert à Cinq, including one at Clark University. 

Next, "I thought it was worthy of recording. There aren't many recordings of it," Bento-Rei said. She also began exploring other Jongen compositions and found the same elements were true — beautiful music rarely performed or recorded for posterity. These included Sonata, for flute and piano ("no one knows about it," Bento-Rei said); Rhapsodie, for piano and wind quintet ("a series of varied tempos and moods"); and Dense lente, for flute and piano ("a brief lyrical work, pensive and quietly sustained"). 

The four compositions make up "The Jongen Project" CD. Recording spanned over a year at the Fraser Performance Studio, WGBH, Boston, and involved 13 musicians. 

Bento-Rei grew up in Milford, where her discovery of the flute was rather like her introduction to Jongen — somewhat by chance. 

At school, "I did not sign up for band when everyone else did," she recalled. However, all of her friends did sign up, and Bento-Rei was missing their company. 

"So I went to the band director and said 'I need to catch up. Give me an instrument that's easy to play.' " 

The band director suggested the flute, which isn't easy to play. But the director's choice proved to be inspired, although Bento-Rei may not have thought so at first. As she began to practice, she said she thought "Oh my God, this is endless. It will take me 10 lifetimes to learn how to play." 

Bento-Rei also graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music, performs as a soloist and in chamber music and orchestral performances and teaches music. She and her husband, Stephen Rei, an attorney, lived several years in Hopedale before moving to Worcester, where their joint project has been restoring an early 20th-century home. 

At least one encyclopedia of classical music doesn't mention Jongen at all. Maybe "The Jongen Project" will remedy that and restore his reputation. 

But notwithstanding the emotional reaction to the Concert à Cinq concert, Jongen's music can be challenging, "difficult" even, Bento-Rei acknowledged, 

"Difficult, then if you take the time, it's addictive," she added. Besides which, "It's all so fresh," she said. "Jongen's music is relatively unknown, absolutely gorgeous, richly emotional, under-performed and hardly recorded. So the entire CD/program is completely fresh." 

At the Jan. 5 CD release concert, which was attended by more than 100 people, "The audience was so mesmerized," Bento-Rei said. 

"Now I'm putting the CD in the hands of lay people and getting their feedback…Obviously I'm not anticipating making a lot of money out of the project. But the idea of legacy is very important to me. And I'm getting feedback that people are liking it." 

For more information and to purchase "The Jongen Project" CD, visit www.lindabento-rei.com. 

Contact Richard Duckett at Richard.Duckett@telegram.com