Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

20th Century Music for solo flute
Salvatore Sciarrino
- "Hermes"
James Dillon
- "Sgothan" (1984)
Jesus Rueda
- "Suspiria" (1988)
Isang Yun
- "Sori" (1988)
Gyorgy Kurtag
- "Doloroso" (1992)
Stefano Gervasoni
- "Ravine" (2000)
Brian Ferneyhough
- "Carceri d'Invenzione IIb" (1984)
Claude Debussy
- "Syrinx" (1913)
played by Mario Caroli
 SvaNa SVN001 [76 mins]
SvaNa 14

A propitious debut for a brilliant flautist who specialises in contemporary 'cutting edge' repertoire, and equally one for a new CD label which deserves to be watched (

The music chosen comprises important pieces that have become established as contemporary classics, and two very new ones dedicated to this player. A similar programme made a great impression given by Mario Caroli at last year's Strasbourg Festival at the Italian Institute, despite that proving to be an incongruous and unsuitable venue, so harsh a reflective space that it was necessary to seek protection against the ear-splitting, laser-sharp sounds unleashed by a modern gold flute in its highest flights.

All is well, however, with the same music recorded in the carefully selected ideal acoustic of the ancient Romanesque San Pietro al Monte at Civate, which transformed the remembered experience into pain-free delight. For once, live music-making is definitely trumped by recorded, and I cannot think of another flute CD which catches all the qualities of a fine modern instrument (Muramatsu Gold 9KCC Heavy) more exactly.

It was recorded 'quasi-live' during one day in a prolonged session, with minimal treatment and the sounds of the surroundings preserved. Caroli played for nine hours 'with apparently no effort and very few breaks, completely alone in an ancient place more than a thousand years old', as described in Federico Cabitza's graphic account of the day's work. He was located mainly in the apse, later down in the crypt when the rain and wind became excessive.

The given order works well for aficionados who are used to instrumental extremes. For others, exploring some of these composers for the first time, it might be well to begin at the end, with Debussy's Syrinx, a seminal piece that opened new perspectives upon the instrument's potentialities and the course of the century - Mario Caroli feels that everything which he displays in this journey started with Syrinx. Next, perhaps, enjoy Kurtag's tiny Doloroso 'on the ridge of silence, soft tones driven to the extremes' and sample Isang Yun's Sori, inspired by Buddhist vocal music, with melodic fluidity and intensity widths, expressive glissandi & portamenti leading to a meditation, 'as if withdrawn into itself', as described by Mario Caroli in characteristically graphic if idiosyncratic English.

Sciarrino, master of pianissimo, specified that his Hermes should be performed in 'the most echoing places' and he exploits the sounds of the keys themselves without breath. Stefano Garvasoni's Ravine, with false octaves and multi-phonics, is enhanced by 'the subterranean and disquieting acoustics of the crypt that the spirit of the piece itself seems to require' (Federico Cabitza). Dillon's Sgothan (clouds) involves microtones and singing whilst playing and Ferneyhough's Carceri d'Invenzione IIb is extreme in its scope, though seldom requiring the 'new techniques' which are explored by several of the other composers.

Recommended unreservedly and this will be one to come back to when playing the 'best in category' game towards the end of the year.

P Grahame Woolf

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