An interesting recital of contrasts
for lovers of contemporary flute music.
Grauwels and long time collaborator
Simard have collected here a number
of original compositions from around
the world, three of which were dedicated
to them. All of the music was written
last century and six of the eight composers
featured are still alive.
The highlights are
unquestionably the opening and closing
pieces. Piazzolla's History of the
Tango was originally written for
flute and guitar and dedicated to Grauwels.
A suite of four tangos, it begins in
the bordello and ends on the concert
platform, charting the history of the
dance and its music. The arranger, who
is not credited (could it be Simard?),
has done a wonderful job of distributing
the original guitar part among an array
of percussion instruments, which colour
the accompaniment beautifully. Listen
to the haunting vibraphone chords in
the second movement, or the jocular
marimba part of the first movement.
The final movement puts the tango in
the context of 20th century classical
music, opening with ambiguity of key
and syncopated rhythms. This is infectious,
tuneful, toe-tapping stuff, even if
Grauwels sounds just a little too innocent
for the bordello of the first movement.
The recital closes
with a raga by Ravi Shankar, played
here on flute and marimba. A gentle
and evocative opening, full of subtle
shading of tone from Grauwels, gives
way to flights of virtuosity as the
raga picks up speed and intensity. Both
artists obviously relish the chance
to strut their stuff here and do so
to great effect without losing sight
of the music itself.
The rest of the program
is more variable.
shows its minimalist influences,
especially in its rhythmic second movement.
It is a tuneful piece, sensitively played,
but is not especially memorable. Wilder's
Flute and Bongos No.1 projects
a confident energy and hints at cool
jazz influences. Butterfly is
short and sweet: a simple melody floated
over vibraphone arpeggios. Simard plays
Abe's marimba solo, Wind in the Bamboo
Grove, with subtlety, creating an
evocative picture. So far so good: the
music is never less than pleasant and
the performances are satisfying.
The marimba solo is
followed by Migrating Monarchs,
the first movement of Young's triptych,
Ode to Nature. The composer making
use of the full range of the bass flute
and alto flutes and, again, the music
is interesting without being remarkable.
Disappointingly, Grauwels and Simard
seem unable to really let the music
swing as it should from 3:40. They play
it just a little too straight.
apply to the performance of Arvo Pärt's
Spiegel im Spiegel as arranged for
alto flute and marimba. Perhaps my love
of the original composition clouds my
judgment, but Grauwels’ flute, though
beautifully played, simply cannot create
the long, singing lines of the original
scoring for violin. The marimba also
sounds too metronomic underneath. Each
note of the arpeggio accompaniment registers
separately on the ear rather than in
pulsing groups of three. The piano's
sustain pedal is sorely missed. The
performance also feels slightly rushed.
This piece works best when played with
the title of another of Pärt’s
compositions in mind: Festina Lente.
At over seventy minutes
of playing time, this disc represents
good value for the flute fanatic. The
general collector is less likely to
want to play through the whole disc
in one sitting, but may still enjoy
hearing it in sections. As noted above,
there are highlights, but not all of
the music is of the same high quality,
and the performances also vary, though
to a lesser degree. The recorded sound
is clear and well balanced, but needs
to be played back at high volume.