In the second volume of Bezaly’s safari through
the musical alphabet, all the pieces call for a sympathetic and
accomplished player, and she amply fulfils both requirements.
The flute has not retained the high status it enjoyed as a solo
instrument in the 18th and 19th centuries
and, though it has inherited a rich repertoire, few modern composers
seem to have shown much interest in writing for it. This recital
is a courageous attempt to explore what she calls ‘uncharted territories’,
namely five items are by relatively unknown 20th century
composers, and two that follow comparatively well trodden paths
– well, only one really since von Call could hardly be considered
a memorable exponent of the instrument’s versatility and charm.
Caldini, the youngest composer to join in this
adventure, sets the pace with a minimalist frolic, but after the
Debussyesque sonata for solo flute by Bäck. I was beginning
to wonder whether, though each item has its own interest, this
hardly constitutes a well-balanced programme. Chromaticism reigns,
and several of these ‘new’ pieces sound decidedly derivative.
There are, of course, exceptions. Carter’s arresting essay Scriva
in vento (written in the wind) shows that, in competent hands,
the gentle flute can turn decidedly shrewish.
The Boismortier suite is a curious choice as
sole representative of the baroque period, particularly when played
sans continuo on a gold Muramatsu flute as it is here, and in
a decidedly improvisando style. Maybe it’s a subtle ploy
to persuade us that he can be made to sound as ‘modern’ as anyone
else! (If a baroque composition is needed what could be better
than C.P.E. Bach’s beautiful A minor sonata for solo flute?)
Firmly rooted in the French style, Braun’s sonata
falls easily on the ear, and reminds me of the ‘test pieces’ composed
every year for flute students at the Paris Conservatoire –
pleasant, difficult to play but easily forgotten. Daniel
Börtz’s Tinted drawings (they must surely depict birds)
makes an excellent sign-off.
The solo flute is not everybody’s cup of tea,
but this disc makes a good case for reminding listeners and flautists,
as well as composers, not to ignore it. When Sharon Bezaly comes
out of the outback I look forward to hearing her play some of
the more familiar solo repertoire, such as Debussy’s Syrinx
and Hindemith’s Eight Pieces.