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Zdenek Bruderhans plays music for solo flute
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Syrinx (1913) [2.23]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892-1955) Danse de la chèvre (1921) [3.00]
Edgar VARÈSE (1883-1965) Density 21.5 (1936, rev. 1946) [3.35]
André JOLIVET (1905-1974) Cinq Incantations (1936) [18.21]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963) Acht Stücke (1927) [6.00]
Larry SITSKY (b.1934) First sonata for solo flute (1959) [12.49]
Luciano BERIO (1925-2003) Sequenza I (1958) [5.48]
Anatol VIERU (1926-1998) Rezonante Bacovia (1963) [5.59]
Zdenek Bruderhans (flute)
rec. Elder Hall, University of Adelaide, South Australia, 1992-1994.
ARBITRIUM 1110 [60.09]

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This is the second disc featuring the flautist Zdenek Bruderhans to come my way recently. Having welcomed his disc of four twentieth century flute concertos including ones by Jolivet and Vieru, I find that this present release makes a good partner as both composers also feature here.

The programme opens with a trio of major works that should be in any professional flautist’s repertoire. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any collection of solo music for the instrument not including either the Debussy or Varèse pieces. Syrinx is beguilingly played by Bruderhans, bringing out much of the mystery that Debussy suggests in his writing. Danse de la chèvre has a suitably pastoral feel to it, particularly in the opening. Later Bruderhans brings the jumping chamois effortlessly to life with his spirited up-tempo playing. Mountain air swirls softly at the close. Varèse’s Density 21.5 makes rather stronger demands on the soloist, both technically and in terms of the expressive results that are desired. Written at the behest of flautist Georges Barrère to inaugurate his platinum flute the brief piece fuses notions of material density with the key intervals within the precision of its title. A performance though should suggest also something about the insubstantiality of human breath, without which the flute cannot make music. Bruderhans highlights this essential aspect in his playing by having the recording capture just enough breath behind the notes and registering the subtle changes in tone from the seductive to the demonstrative that his instrument is capable of producing.

Jolivet’s Cinq Incantations is also a work that relies to a large extent on capturing nuances of playing – overblowing frequently figures in the first incantation, insistent fluttered rhythms in the second incantation. An ethereal flow to the third movement reminds one in part of Debussy’s Syrinx with a similar mood evident in the fourth incantation also, though in a lower register on the instrument. The final movement’s distinct rhythmic patterning brings home the composer’s preoccupation with primordial incantations. Ritual of a kind can be readily imagined to accompany Bruderhans’ vividly characterised playing.

Hindemith’s Eight Pieces can be thought of as little more than haikus for the flute. More correctly though they form a mini suite for the instrument, and during its course range and expressive mood is explored with surprising insight. Moving quickly from one to another the listener is invited to form contrasts and links between the items. Bruderhans proves a most persuasive advocate in that he draws matter-of-factness, humour, inward reflection, even grandeur – albeit on a small scale – from them.

Larry Sitsky is an Australian composer new to me. The sonata starts with a soulful lied that nonetheless has dashes of passion in the writing, before progressing to a mystic interlude, the character of which eludes being pinned down for much of the time. The third movement, a theme and five variations on a Slovak folk song, shifts character swiftly and often to test the manual dexterity and breathing capabilities of the flautist. The closing movement, Perpetual Motion, is a brief study in edgy unrest as the time signatures fluctuate back and forth. With a pithy final flourish the work ends.

Berio’s Sequenza I is without doubt the other seminal work included here to have a place in any flautist’s solo repertoire. Built on semitone clusters placed throughout the instrument’s range, Bruderhans finds a less aggressive tone than some soloists in his playing. In my view the piece is all the more effective for it, as he can then explore nuances of dynamic and shading with natural ease. The recording captures the action of the flutes keys without undue attention, as it does every inference of light and shade or reduced scale that find its way into his playing.

Anatol Vieru’s Rezonante Bacovia in some senses might be thought of starting where Berio’s Sequenza finishes, as both works explore new sonorities and playing techniques for the flute. Vieru, unlike Berio, has the flautist play in conjunction with a tape that acts as the soloist’s "shadow". By way of a description the composer said, "Bacovia – a great Romanian poet – communicates with the universe and mortals in the name of solitude and infinite grief." The work’s rondo form employs a variety of devices and techniques – among them the influence of Romanian folk music, simultaneous playing and singing from the soloist, and the imitation of a shepherd’s pipe – to suggest an idea that is not bounded by time or space. The tape’s contribution, particularly noticeable in the last third of the piece, lends an air of dislocation to the experience. Vieru’s piece is given strong advocacy by Bruderhans to end this absorbing recital.

This is a well-recorded disc that showcases the talents of a highly accomplished flautist. That the repertoire ranges from the seminal to some equally interesting lesser-known works only adds to the overall appeal.

Evan Dickerson


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