This double CD set features a range of Twentieth Century and
Contemporary works for flute. Wissam Boustany is known for his
commitment to the memorization of repertoire for performance.
Both he and Szram perform from memory in their recitals and
recordings. Boustany is a performer who wears his heart on his
sleeve, and this disc is no exception, with a wide range of
expression, tone colour changes and nuances throughout.
The first disc concentrates on Romantic repertoire, with Sonatas
by Mel Bonis, Paul Hindemith and Joseph Jongen. Bonis is perhaps
one of the undiscovered French Romantic composers, but this
lyrical sonata has become popular within the flute’s repertoire.
The first movement demonstrates flowing melodic lines, while
the second movement reveals a lighter side to her character,
with coruscating lines and dancing rhythms. The third movement
is arresting in its charm, with a sense of delicate simplicity
and a hint of Rachmaninov in the harmonies. The final movement
contains elements of the earlier three, in a dramatic finale.
Hindemith’s flute sonata is a staple of the twentieth century
flute repertoire. This is an engaging performance, with both
players well matched in technical and musical control. The music
is played with a good sense of rhythmic precision where required,
and with subtle rubato used to excellent effect. Boustany’s
quiet playing is particularly enticing, and he achieves a convincing
range of expression throughout. The slow movement is particularly
enjoyable. These performers bring out the beauty in Hindemith’s
sometimes angular writing with an intensity that demands to
be heard. The third movement is taken at an energetic pace.
Clarity and technical control are always well managed, although
there is a slight tendency to sharpness in the final March.
Belgian composer Joseph Jongen’s Sonata is longer than most
flute pieces, at nearly half an hour in duration. The flute
is heard over a complex piano part, with a compositional style
which suggests an impressionistic influence from Debussy combined
with a hint of the German Romantic style of Reinecke and others.
The four movements are varied in character, but each has strong
thematic material which is developed as the music progresses.
The third movement has some particularly enjoyable Debussian
phrases, while the fourth has a resounding energy which is maintained
even through the more lyrical sections.
The second disc is made up of works composed for - or in one
case, by - Wissam Boustany. The title track of the disc, Carl
Witt’s This Invisible World was commissioned to highlight
the plight of blind people, supported by Boustany’s charity,
Towards Humanity. The opening builds from a short melodic
motif, whose pitches recur throughout, with Witt’s style clearly
influenced by minimalism. The music gradually builds in intensity,
before a calm and reflective section gives a sense of repose.
This is an enjoyable work which is performed here with understanding
The angular opening of Yevhan Stankovych’s Sonata of the
Serenades provides a marked contrast, with its more modernist
style and strong rhythmic definition. This is a highly emotive
two movement work, full of anguish and sorrow. Thematic material
provides an effective link between the two movements. This is
a powerful piece which proves that contemporary repertoire can
be as emotionally rich as much from previous eras. Boustany’s
own composition, … And the Wind Whispered … is a virtuoso
tour de force, demonstrating Boustany’s well-controlled circular
breathing and use of extended techniques. Based on the idea
of the breath being central to the flute player’s means of expression,
the piece explores the freedom of the air to cross borders and
provide a sense of unity around the world. Musical voices from
different countries make an appearance, with a beautiful eastern-influenced
melody being particularly memorable.
For me, one of the highlights of the disc is the opening movement
of Houtaf Khoury’s Lebanese-accented Après un Rêve.
The piece begins with a dark funeral march which is made all
the more atmospheric through the use of extended techniques
for both the piano and the flute. The work’s political message
deals with the problems in the Middle East. It is a stark reminder
of the violence and oppression that is still rife in many parts
of the world. The short second movement presents a low register
flute melody heard over thunderous, fast-moving, resonant piano
sounds. The rhythms become more defined as the movement progresses,
leading towards the pounding conclusion. The third movement,
subtitled Song for a Dead Child is harmonically simpler,
and the contrast is highly effective. A reprise of the opening
funeral march ends the work. This is a dramatic and highly engaging
recording, which leaves its mark on the listener.
The disc ends with Sibelius’ short Scaramouche, written
for Poul Knudsen’s pantomime and heard here in an arrangement
for flute and piano. The simplicity of the melodic line is refreshing
after the darkness of the Khoury, and leaves us with a sense
of hope and peacefulness.
Overall this is a fascinating disc which has much to offer,
both in terms of the repertoire and the musicianship with which
it is delivered.