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Zdenek Bruderhans Homepage

Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
First Sonata for Flute and Piano (1945) [19:39]
Sonata for Flute, Violin and Piano (1936) [16:00]
Promenades for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord (1940) [8:00]
Jindrich FELD (b.1925)
Four Pieces for Solo Flute (1954) [5:45]
Sonata for Flute and Piano (1957) [17:40]
Zdenek Bruderhans (flute)
Clemens Leske (piano); Josef Hala (piano, harpsichord); Milan Vitek (violin);
rec. Elder Hall, University of Adelaide 1997 (Martinů Flute Sonata), Prague Domovina Studio 1967 (Martinů Sonata for flute, violin and piano and Promenades for flute, violin and harpsichord), Cleveland Museum of Art, October 1982 (Feld Four Pieces for solo flute); Prague studio, Czechoslovak Radio, 1969 (Feld Sonata for flute and piano)
Martinů Sonata for Flute, Violin and Piano and Promenades originally recorded on Supraphon, respectively CZA 166701331 and CZA 1667011332 presented on this CD ‘as a licence’
ARBITRIUM 1881 [68:04]
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This is a most interesting recording, though, it has to be said, something of a mixed blessing.  Zdenek Bruderhans is a distinguished Czech flautist, who left his homeland in the late 1960s, and has since mainly been based in Australia.  It’s a pity that the brief liner notes tell us nothing about Bruderhans or the other musicians who take part here. What the notes do point out, however, is that the recordings took place over a thirty year period, in a wide range of different venues, as you can see from the details above.  That has to be taken into account, and to a certain extent explains the variable quality of both playing and recording.
Nevertheless, the programme of music is fascinating, and I for one, as a great lover of Martinů’s music, am enormously grateful to have a version of the Sonata for flute, violin and piano and the Promenades for flute, violin and harpsichord, neither of which is much represented in the current catalogue.  The sonata has, in its opening Allegro poco moderato (track 4), that folk-inspired rhythmic energy that you often find in this composer’s music, right up to the Nonet of 1959, the year of his death.  The Adagio that follows is deeply expressive and also perfectly judged in its use of the three instruments. A sparkling Allegretto and a good-humoured Moderato complete this delightful work.
Even more attractive for me are the four Promenades that follow.  This work is more often heard with piano; but there’s no doubt that the harpsichord adds something special to it in terms of bite and piquancy.  Each of the four pieces is very short, none as much as three minutes, and there is an insubstantial, even surreal flavour supplied by the mixture of the harpsichord’s Baroque associations and the music’s 20th century idiom.  The quicker movements are full of wit and sheer joie de vivre, but it is again the very beautiful Adagio that has made the strongest impression on me – exquisite music, and wonderfully projected by these musicians.
Jindrich Feld’s music was new to me, but Bruderhans presents the two works here in a most persuasive way.  The solo flute pieces are impressive, with a third movement which pays ‘Hommage a Bartók’ in its third movement by way of allusions to the Intermezzo interrotto of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.  The finale is a real firework display, containing an almost-unheard-of top F for the flute – enough to rule the piece out for all but the most courageous players. Feld’s Flute Sonata, which completes the disc, is another very likeable piece, with strong echoes of Poulenc and Prokofiev in its perky tunes and spiky rhythms.  The second movement, Grave, also contains more than a hint of Martinů’s influence, with a central climax that recalls the disturbing intensity of the older composer’s Double Concerto for strings, piano and timps.  .
The standard of performing and musicianship from all the musicians in the above works is extremely impressive, though the recordings are far below the best modern standards.  So it is rather unfortunate that Martinů’s oddly titled First Flute Sonata, - odd because he wrote only one! - the first work on the disc, and by far the most familiar one, presents Bruderhans’ playing at its least satisfactory.  The tone is breathy and wavering, he is sharp of the piano throughout, and generally sounds out of sorts.  This isn’t helped by the recording, which is balanced crudely and of poor quality, all of which could easily put you off from persisting to the later tracks, which would be a great pity as you’d be missing some distinguished music-making.
All told, a very uneven and slightly unsatisfactory issue, but still worth having for the loving performances it contains of some unusual but highly attractive repertoire.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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