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Rena VALI (b. 1952)
Concerto for flute and orchestra (1998)
Folk Songs (Set No. 10) for soprano and orchestra (1992): a) Love song; b) Song for Luristan; c) Lament, In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen; d) Popular song from Tehran
Deylámân for flute, oud and orchestra (1995)
Alberto Almarza (flute)
Janna Baty (soprano)
George Mgrdichian (oud)
Boston Modern Orchestra Project/Gil Rose
Rec. Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory, Boston, Massachusetts / Houghton Chapel, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, 14 February 1998, 25 March 1999, 19-21 December 2000. DDD
NAXOS 8.557224 [64:27]


Reza Vali, who was born in Iran, will probably be a new name to most readers. Vali is now based in the USA and has been the recipient of several prestigious awards and commissions.

The Concerto for flute and orchestra (1998) is an unusual and imaginative work, melodic and extremely accessible. The first movement is heavily oriental in atmosphere with the flute being played with a technique where the soloist alternates between blowing and singing which is intended to imitate the sound of a Persian bamboo flute called the ney. In the second movement the strange yet engaging blend of Persian folk music and Western music that at times was reminiscent of works such as Bernard Herrmannís film score for Jason and the Argonauts, Bernsteinís film score On the Town and his musical West Side Story.

Valiís Set No. 10 of four folk songs for soprano and orchestra was composed in 1992 for soprano and orchestra. The second and fourth songs are based on authentic Persian folk-melodies. The first and third songs are quasi-folk songs with the third song, Lament, In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen being a funeral dirge in memory of the great French composer.

This expressive song cycle is perhaps more conventional than both the Flute concerto and Deylámân but is no less effective. With her rich and colourful voice soprano Janna Baty is well suited to these songs and gives a characterful performance.

In two sections, the exciting and moody Deylámân for flute, oud and orchestra (1995), is a fusion of Eastern exotica and North American landscapes. The composer informs the reader that the second section includes short quotations from works by Beethoven, Bruckner, Mahler and Wagner as well as African and Latin-American folk-song. The unique sounds of the Persian instruments the ney and oud are never far away.

I cannot give too much commendation to the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Gil Rose for their exceptional endeavours and special praise is warranted for the playing of the self-taught flautist Alberto Almarez and oud (barbat) player George Mgrdichian.

These well played and imaginative works are richly perfumed with images of the middle-East and of North American landscapes. If you want something different to the usual fare yet remaining approachable then this release may be for you. Certainly worth exploring!

Michael Cookson

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