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Great works for flute and orchestra
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Flute Concerto FS119 (1926) [16:16]
Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES (1884-1920)
Poem for Flute and Orchestra (1918) [9:57]
Carl REINECKE (1824-1910)
Flute Concerto in D major Op.283 (1908) [18:08]
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1910)
Concertino for Flute and Orchestra Op.107 (1902) [7:07]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Larga and Allegro for two flutes and strings (1863-4) Version for solo flute and strings [3:53]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Flute Sonata (1956-7) orch. Lennox Berkeley [11:27]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Flight of the Bumblebee (1899-1900) arr. Kalevi Aho [1:02]
Sharon Bezaly (flute)
Residentie Orkest Den Haag/Neeme Järvi
rec. Dr Anton Philipszaal, The Hague, The Netherlands, August 2007 and June 2008; stereo/multichannel
reviewed in surround
BIS BIS-SACD-1679 [69:25]

One has to question the marketing mind who chose the title Great works for flute and orchestra. There can be no question that the Nielsen concerto is a great work. The rest are enjoyable but essentially more than a rung or two down the ladder from Nielsen.
 
What is great about this disc is the startling playing of Sharon Bezaly. It is not that she grandstands in any way, she is just a phenomenally gifted flautist. She has already recorded a substantial number of significant works for her chosen instrument and by recording Nielsen's masterwork she has filled a glaring gap in the list. The Nielsen, it goes without saying, is extraordinarily well played. The detailed recording has real impact and presence. My only doubts must be placed at the door of the conductor Neeme Järvi. He seems to play down the more disruptive elements of this remarkable score. The trombone never, as Robert Simpson once put it, 'spreads himself all over the score with a grotesque and aimless blether' as it does in other recordings, and the timpani are surely too restrained. However, it must be admitted that Bezaly is so good at the lyrical elements that all has to be forgiven. The work has never been better recorded technically: that at least is certain.
 
For the rest: the Griffes' Poem surprises by its imagination and quality. It has a pensive opening and continues as quite a sad piece. Whatever the 'poem' was about it was not a happy tale. The first climax has a sinister feel and draws one's attention to the date of the work, 1918. Perhaps this is some sort of post-war elegy . About half way through things become more upbeat and there are hints of a country dance but even here the flute line is unsettled by the orchestra. After a brief moment of exoticism - Griffes did compose The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan - the opening mood returns. Reinecke's concerto demands that one ignores the date of composition (1908) because it is firmly in the mould of Schumann and Brahms. It is nonetheless a tuneful and attractive work. There is a lovely slow movement and an amiable finale. Bezaly displays complete control even in the final virtuoso moments. This, after the Nielsen and Griffes, may be the third reason to own the disc. Cécile Chaminade's Concertino is music for a warm summer afternoon and attractive in its way. Tchaikovsky's tiny Largo was an early piece and never published. It is no more than a pretty chip off the work bench. Poulenc's sonata is not untypical of the composer's lesser pieces in being only craftsmanlike. There is none of the tunefulness of the Concert Champêtre or Les Biches. As for the Rimsky, it is just one minute of virtuoso fun.
 
Dave Billinge 


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