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Zdenek Bruderhans Homepage  

Zdenek Bruderhans plays 20th Century Flute Concertos
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962) Concerto for flute and orchestra [18.03] *
Anatol VIERU (1926-1998) Concerto for flute, strings and percussion (1954-55) [21.59] **
Josef MATEJ (1922-1992) Concerto for flute, strings and harpsichord (1967) [16.12] ***
Andre JOLIVET (1905-1974) Second Concerto for flute, strings and percussion [15.48]****
Zdenek Bruderhans (flute)
Prague Symphony Orchestra/Vaclav Smetacek *; Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra/Anatol Vieru **; Moravian Philharmonic/J Noheji ***; Elder Conservatoire Percussion Ensemble/G. Dudley ****
rec. live, 15 May 1959 *, December 1967 **, 11 March 1968 ***, 28 July 1985 ****. No recording locations given.
ARBITRIUM (no CD number given) [72.20]

A quartet of diverse and original twentieth-century flute concertos is presented here. They provide engrossing listening for anyone wanting lesser known territory for the instrument. Most readers might have heard of Ibert and Jolivet, but Vieru and Matej may well be all but unknown outside select circles. That is a shame, for their music - and particularly that of Vieru - deserves to be much more widely known and appreciated.
The information accompanying the copy of the CD-R I was sent is sketchy – the reverse side of the cover lists the tracks and accompanying artists and the back of the CD case itself gives but the briefest background about the performances. There is next to nothing about the soloist and the works themselves. What is forthcoming however is that these recordings are all taken from off-air radio recordings captured on reel-to-reel tape and LPs that capture Bruderhans’ live performances at a variety of stages in his career. The recorded sound is not ideally clear and free from ‘flutter’ interference, a common occurrence when recordings are made from LP playbacks, such as happened here. Ibert, Vieru and Matej all suffer less than Jolivet in this respect.
The Ibert shows an impressive standard of solo playing from the start in a sprightly Allegro. The line is nicely graded and coloured, mixing shade with ease amongst the bright effervescent passages that Ibert scores with such apparent ease. The Andante middle movement is lyrical and finely spun by Bruderhans against an atmospheric orchestral accompaniment. The closing Allegro Scherzando is an altogether punchier affair that possesses much in the way of rhythmic interplay between soloist and orchestra, with a melancholy middle section to the movement varying both the material and moods it contains. Bruderhans takes it all in his stride, which is all the more impressive when you register that this was the performance that won him first prize in the 1959 Prague Spring Festival Competition – securing maximum marks from Jean Pierre Rampal, no less.
My own interest in this CD stems from the inclusion of the concerto by Anatol Vieru, one of Romania’s most original composers of the recent past. Stemming from Vieru’s period of study under Aram Khachaturian in Moscow, the concerto was written for the Russian flautist Alexander Kornejev. The material is based on the tonal sequence C-B-C#-Bb-D-A-Eb-Ab-E-G-F#-F. The opening movement, marked Ricercare-Toccata, holds the orchestral strings and percussion on a tight rein as the solo line is woven at a steady tempo, at least in the beginning. The movement’s later section picks up both the tempo and use of percussion. The solo line becomes increasingly agitated and verges on the declamatory at times.  The middle movement – Aria – is altogether different, opening with a sparsely scored string line to accompany the flute. Indeed, the flute here possesses a singing quality that makes the title marking seem appropriate, even though Vieru gradually tightens the grip his orchestral forces exert on the movement before allowing it to die away. The final movement has percussive elements well to the fore, with the solo part showing as much interest in rhythm as sustaining a lyrical line.  It’s a work and performance that is well worth hearing - having the composer as its conductor adds to the documentary value.
The Matej concerto was written for Zdenek Bruderhans and makes fewer demands on him as soloist than the preceding Vieru. All three movements hold flowing lyricism at their core, although in an unusual twist for the concerto form the slow adagio comes first, flowed by two faster allegros that are themselves differentiated in no small measure. The recording suffers from a fair amount of flutter and congestion, which results in the harpsichord being all but inaudible. Those that might expect this to be a neo-baroque work with continuo style contributions from the keyboard will be disappointed.
If one is listening to this disc straight through by the time the Jolivet concerto starts the mild irritation one had at the start with intermittent recording interference turns to something a bit stronger, as it becomes more pronounced and consistently present. A shame really as both the work and performance seem imaginative – particularly the second movement that places the ppp solo part against a bare percussion accompaniment – but this is soon interrupted by the uproarious third movement. The final movement – Calme – brings the work and the disc to a contemplative, wistful close.
A release for flautists, flute aficionados or those interested in the featured composers. Even though it’s let down by the supporting notes and sound quality in the long run this is still an interesting disc that I will occasionally revisit.
Evan Dickerson


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