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Eastern Gems
Tadeusz KASSERN (1904-1957)
Sonatina [12:27]
Marta PTASZYNSKA (b. 1943)
Variations for flute [4:54]
Jindrich FELD (1925-2007)
Sonata for flute and piano [19:12]
Four pieces for flute solo [6:34]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Scherzo for flute and piano [2:39]
Miklós RÓZSA (1907-1995)
Sonata for flute solo, Op. 39 [13:33]
Danuta UHL (b.1928)
Sonatina for flute and piano [4:24]
Nicole Riner (flute); Theresa Bogard (piano)
rec. May and August 2008, FTM Studios, Lakewood, Colorado, USA
CENTAUR RECORDS CRC 3066 [63:46]

“Eastern Gems” here refers to eastern Europe. The music comes from Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Some is for solo flute and some is for flute with piano. To start off, then, I should commend Nicole Riner for her adventurous, varied program. The blend of styles, and the occasional appearance of a piano, makes this recital easy to enjoy in a single sitting.
 
Actually, there is something “eastern” about the sonatina by Tadeusz Kassern, because it calls to mind the sounds of the gamelan and the harmonies Debussy used to evoke Asia. The sonata by Jindrich Feld invokes the French heritage of its dedicatee, Jean-Pierre Rampal; you can easily hear Ibert or Poulenc or Françaix between the notes, especially the cheery main theme. The finale brings suggestions of another Parisian: Bohuslav Martinů, whose lively neo-classical vocabulary will reappear in a brief, undated scherzo from his own pen.
 
There are some attractive solo pieces by Feld and Miklós Rózsa, Feld cheekier and Rózsa more insistent. More acidic is the atonal set of variations by Marta Ptaszynska, for solo flute, which flutters with invention and show-off technique. I’m reminded of somebody’s comment, I think David Hurwitz’, that the flute, because of its inherent sweetness, takes to 20th century musical languages especially well. Danuta Uhl’s concluding sonatina, for flute and piano, packs a lot of nervous, even manic energy into four minutes. The booklet doesn’t have much biographical info on Uhl; using Google I found a birth year (1928) but no mention of a death, so perhaps he is still with us.
 
No reasonable person could complain about the performances by Nicole Riner or Theresa Bogard, the latter of whom gets just as much interesting work to do as the former. Riner’s skill, and her job as a professor at the University of Wyoming, is a handy reminder that the American conservatory system is turning out more highly skilled performers than the country knows what to do with. Anyway, although this is a bit of a niche album, it’s a good one, so consider investigating this niche.
 
Brian Reinhart