Wissam Boustany – This Invisible World
Mel BONIS (1858-1937) Sonata [16:18]; Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963) Sonata [15:20]; Joseph JONGEN (1873-1953) Sonata Op. 77 [27:12]; Carl WITT (b. 1959) This Invisible World [14:28]; Yevhen STANKOVYCH (b.1942) Sonata of the Serenades [14:38]; Wissam BOUSTANY (b.1960) … And the Wind Whispered … [6:40]; Houtaf KHOURY (b.1967) Après un Rêve [25:09]; Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Scaramouche Op. 71 [2:45]
Wissam Boustany (flute), Aleksander Szram (piano)
rec. 2-3 April, 19-20 July 2011, Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, UK. DDD
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI 6170/1 [58:50 + 63:40]
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 and warmth.
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.
Overall a fascinating disc with much to offer in terms of repertoire and musicianship.