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Great Works for Flute and Orchestra - Bezaly, Järvi

Great Works for Flute and Orchestra - Bezaly, Järvi

BIS  BIS-1679 SACD

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


NIELSEN, Carl (1865–1931): Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, FS 119 (1926)
GRIFFES, Charles Tomlinson (1884–1920): Poem for Flute and Orchestra (1918)
REINECKE, Carl (1824–1910): Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in D major, Op. 283 (1908)
CHAMINADE, Cécile (1857–1944): Concertino for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 107 (1902)
TCHAIKOVSKY, Pyotr Ilyich (1840–93) adapted by Ernest Sauter: Largo and Allegro for two flutes and strings (1863–64) - Version for solo flute and strings
POULENC, Francis (1899–1963) orch. Lennox Berkeley: Flute Sonata (1956–57)
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV, Nikolai (1844–1908) arr. Kalevi Aho 2008 – dedicated to Sharon Bezaly: The Flight of the Bumblebee (1899–1900)

Sharon Bezaly (flute)
Residentie Orkest, Den Haag
Neeme Järvi (conductor)


One of today’s most highly respected exponents of her instrument, Sharon Bezaly is a staunch champion of contemporary music, with 17 concertos and numerous chamber works dedicated to her. But she has also made acclaimed recordings of flute repertoire mainstays, from Mozart’s concertos and quartets to Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto pastoral.

Her latest disc includes two central works from the repertoire for flute and orchestra – the concertos by Carl Nielsen and Carl Reinecke – as well as less often heard gems, such as Cécile Chaminade's melodious Concertino and Charles T. Griffes’ Poem, with its distinctive harmonies and colourful writing. The programme also includes a true rarity in Tchaikovsky’s youthful Largo and Allegro for flute and strings, written while the composer was still a student at the St Petersburg Conservatory. The work was originally composed for two flutes and strings, but as the second flute plays for just 17 of the total of 87 bars, either doubling or filling in when the first player is silent, the two parts have here been combined into one.

In contrast, Poulenc's Sonata is of course one of the most popular pieces in the flute repertoire of the 20th century, but it is here performed in an unusual version for flute and orchestra, orchestrated by the British composer Lennox Berkeley, incidentally a friend of Poulenc.

Throughout this colourful and varied programme, Sharon Bezaly enjoys the sympathetic support of Neeme Järvi and the Residentie Orchestra who also join her in the spectacular encore, the Finnish composer Kalevi Aho’s virtuosic arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov's The Flight of the Bumblebee.

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PCM recording

Recorded in June 2008 (Nielsen) and in August 2007 (the remainder) at the Dr. Anton Philipszaal, The Hague, the Netherlands, 24/44.1

Recording producer: Robert Suff

Sound engineer: Fabian Frank (Arcandus Musikproduktion)

Recording equipment: Neumann microphones; RME Micstasy microphone pre-amplifier and high-resolution A/D converter; Yamaha DM1000 digital mixer; Sequoia Workstation; Pyramix DSD Workstation (for SACD); B&W 802 Nautilus loudspeakers; STAX headphones

Post-production: Editing: Elisabeth Kemper
Mixing: Matthias Spitzbarth

Executive producer: Robert von Bahr
Reviews (1)
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Review by John Miller - August 20, 2014

I don't want to quibble much about the title "Great works for Flute and Orchestra", except to say that just a glance at the programme prompts the response "you can't be serious!". Over-enthusiastic promotion aside, Sharon Bezalay is certainly one of the great flautists of our time, and she has a flair for programme-making, just as this disc has a charming collection of works - most which are rarely heard by the general concert-goer but will be familiar fare to flute buffs.

Wielding her 24ct gold Murumatsu flute, Bezaly is warmly supported by Residentie Orkest den Haag, one of the Netherlands' major symphony orchestras, under the baton of music director emeritus Neeme Järvi. There is close rapport between soloist, orchestra and conductor, which makes for a listening experience full of sunshine, as the composers concerned endowed their works with only a few passing dark clouds.

Neilsen's two-movement Flute Concerto from 1926 was composed for a member of the Copenhagen Wind Ensemble, as was his Clarinet Concerto a few years later. It has a transparent way of outlining his polyphonic textures, which suggests chamber music, and his orchestra is a basic classical one, with double wind, two horns, trombone, tympani and strings, in proportion with the soloists somewhat limited dynamics. Bezaly and Järvi create an clear, intimate sound, producing a performance which echoes Neilson's declaration that "the flute cannot deny its own nature; its home is in Arcadia and it prefers pastoral moods". There is a wry humour investing this concerto, including its final flourish, where the strings are directed to play fortissimo but with mutes!

American composer Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920), hardly a household name even in his native country, sadly only had 15-years of composing, as he died at 35. He began with the German Romantic style, and quickly branched out into more contemporary modes. His 'Poem for Flute and Orchestra', perhaps his best known piece, has a limited orchestral score for 2 horns, percussion, harp and strings. Bezaly floats his lyrical, poetic lines and arabesques with discerning virtuosity, above colourful support from the band. This enchanting piece incites and stimulates a listener's imagination quite delightfully.

At the heart of Bezaly's programme is the Flute Concerto in D major by Carl Reinecke (1884-1920) who ignored the pressure of his friends to write it in a "modern" way and went back to Beethoven and early German Romanticism. This sunny work seems to be gaining popularity, including a recent performance by the Berlin Philharmonic. It has a classical three-movement structure, and the opening of the first movement urges the soloist to indulge in daydreaming, to which Bezaly happily responds, with the orchestra following. The notably Terpsichorean first movement is counter-weighted with a slow and sadly poetic middle movement. Here a rhythmic tread of low strings darkens the mood, over which Bezaly's sweet, serene tone seems appropriately to have exchanged its brightness for golden sweet tones. A mazurka-like finale, sometimes very passionate, brings back Reinecke's sunshine and terminates in majesty.

Cécile Louise Stéphanie Chaminade (1857-1944) was one of the great women pianists, and her richly romantic 'Automne' from Études De Concert, Op. 35 has beguiled many a student learning to play the piano, while challenging them by its virtuosity. Her delicate, perfumed Concertino for flute and orchestra was prepared as a test piece for a competition at the Paris Conservertoire in 1902. Interestingly, it has the largest orchestra of all the pieces in Bezaly's programme, consisting of flute, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trombones, tuba, harp and strings. Chaminade's characterful taste in orchestration and Järvi's guidance of the Residentie ensure that the solo flute's singing lines and gossamer roulades make full effect in this open-hearted piece depicting the beautiful colours of the pre-Winter.

Tchaikovsky's name is not usually associated with flutes, but while a student at the St Petersburg Conservatory, he penned this exercise, and it was found in his papers some time after his death. the compact 'Largo and Allegro for 2 flutes and strings', lasting only 7 minutes or so, passes through a number of moods and textures preluding the mature composer of his last symphonies. The second flute only appears in 17 of its 87 bars, mirroring the first flute and playing when it was silent, so an adaptation for single flute was used for this programme. Brief as it is, Bezaly's and Järvi's indulgent performance makes it a bon-bon well worth hearing.

Poulenc's Flute Sonata of 1956-7 entered the repertoire after its première at the Strasbourg Festival, to the extent that the popular pianist James Galway asked for an orchestration from his and Poulenc's friend, English composer Lennox Berkeley. Using the Stravinsky and Satie influences of Poulenc's sonata, he produced an idiomatic accompaniment from the piano score, thus effectively giving this charming work with its lyrical base and florid passage-work another life, played here by Bezaly and Järvi as if it were originally an orchestral work.

Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bumblebee' is known world-wide. An orchestral interlude in his opera 'The Tale of Tsar Saltan' is THE encore at a concert or recital, arranged for all sorts of unlikely instruments. At source, it is a mostly orchestral ending to Act III's tableau, in which the magic Swan-Bird changes Prince Gvidon Saltanovich (the Tsar's son) into an insect so that he can fly away to visit his father. A voice is used for the first part of the original, but Finnish composer Kalevi Aho (a friend of Bezely) has produced a glittering and even more virtuosic arrangement. Needless to say, Bezely and the orchestra relish this challenge. With the accuracy and sponteneity of any bee's flight on a calm day, they bring this brilliantly conceived and executed programme to a breathtaking conclusion.

The BIS recording, captured in the acoustic bloom of Dr Anton Phillipszaal at The Hague', is mellow and detailed, as well as balancing the soloist almost ideally; it never draws attention to itself but portrays the music as at a concert. Perhaps it could have had a slightly more focussed perspective, but this would be of note to dyed-in-the wool audiophiles.

An essential album for Sharon Bezaly's world-wide fans, and the perfect way to lift one's spirits by listening to consummately performed music of many moods and contrasts.

Copyright © 2014 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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