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French Delights: Sharon Bezaly: Pierre SANCAN (b.1916) Sonatine (1946) [8:53]; Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937) Suite for Flute and Piano, Op. 34 [16:39]; Albert ROUSSEL (1869-1937) Joueurs de Flûte, Op. 27 [9:04]; Deux Poèmes de Ronsard, Op. 26 [8:15]; Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974) Sonatine (1922) [8:01]; Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895) Suite de trios Morceaux, Op 116 [10:19]
Sharon Bezaly (flute)
Love Derwinger (piano); Barbara Hendricks (soprano)
rec. April, August 2007, Nybrokajen 11, Stockholm, Sweden. SACD
BIS-SACD-1639 [62:29]
Experience Classicsonline

The thing that strikes you first when you hear Sharon Bezaly play is the quality of the sound. It is distinctive, rich and overwhelmingly beautiful. Add to that a flawless technique and one would be hard pushed to find any fault with her playing. Bezaly has an exclusive deal with BIS and has already amassed an impressive discography; this is a welcome addition.

French flute repertoire has a reputation for being clichéd, perhaps as a result of the use of works such as Fauré Fantasie as set pieces for college entrance auditions. It is encouraging, then, to have a fresh perspective on these works through Bezalyís playing. While she avoids the most popular French works (Fauré, Gaubert, Chaminade), the disc contains exquisite recordings of works by Sancan, Widor, Roussel, Milhaud and Godard, a combination which makes this recital ideal for students to study as well as for pure musical pleasure.

The performance of Sancanís Sonatine, opening the disc, is truly beautiful. Bezaly has a natural flair for phrasing and subtle rubato, and the piano playing by Love Derwinger is equally impressive.

Widorís Suite follows, a four movement work which I have never particularly enjoyed as a whole; I have to say, though, that Bezalyís rendition won me over, full of character and sparkle where required, lyrical and expressive at other times. The second movement was as exciting as the third movement was warm, with Bezaly adapting her sound to suit the mood of the music.

By contrast, I have always loved Rousselís Joueurs de Flute, ever since I first played the piece. The interpretation here is full of colour and light and shade. Bezaly has a wonderfully subtle approach, which captures the attention. Her playing is truly awesome. The second movement, Tityre is played with a sense of ease, lightness and fun; this is a joyful performance. The melancholy and eastern influences in Krishna come across with a deep sense of understanding and style, while the ebb and flow in the final movement seems wholly natural and unforced.

In Deux Poèmes de Ronsard, also by Roussel, Bezaly is joined by soprano Barbara Hendricks. The flute provides a haunting accompaniment to the vocal line. The pair work well together, with Hendricksí rich tone complementing that of the flute. Written to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of the poet Pierre de Ronsard, this is a wonderful work which deserves to be heard more.

Milhaudís Sonatine is next, and once again, the performers capture the dramatic flair of the work. There is an undeniable jazz influence here, although it is incorporated into the romantic style. Composed in 1922, this work has three short movements and strong rhythmic energy. The piano part is an equal part of the duo, and the flute often plays in its low register. This performance is well proportioned, carefully thought out and reaches a very high standard.

The closing work on the disc is the Suite de Trois Morceaux by Benjamin Godard. The three movements are characterised by the performers, with the first movement achieving a lightness of touch and a dancing style. The use of rubato is spot-on: there is neither too much nor too little, and it always feels completely natural. The Idylle provides a further display of excellent musicianship, and benefits from the depth of Bezalyís tone. The final Valse is charming and bright, seemingly effortless in its technical display and full of character.

This is a beautifully produced performance that makes you sit up and listen. Sharon Bezaly and Love Derwinger give faultless renditions which are consistently brilliant. I had expected a lot from Bezaly, but this surpassed my expectations.

Carla Rees



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