MIRROR OF ETERNITY
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Flute Concerto (1968 arrangement of Violin Concerto, 1940) [36.49]
Houstaf KHOURY (b. 1967)
Mirror of Eternity (2005?) [24.48]
Yevhen STANKOVYCH (b. 1942)
Chamber Symphony No 3 (1983) [18.10]
Wissam Boustany (flute)
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine/Volodymyr Sirenko
rec. Ukraine National Radio Studio, 24, 26 June 2004
NIMBUS ALLIANCE NI 6168 [79.47]
This disc opens with the arrangement of Khachaturian’s Violin
Concerto for flute and orchestra. This was undertaken by
Jean-Pierre Rampal in 1968 at the composer’s own suggestion.
The player here states in the booklet that he has made “some
minor adjustments to suit my own playing”. I cannot detect these.
The performance is splendid, and the recording gets the balance
between the flute and Khachaturian’s sometimes noisy orchestration
just right. There have been other recordings of this arrangement,
including a much-issued original one by Rampal himself; but
this music does not admit of much difference in interpretation.
Boustany’s playing is faultless especially in the quixotic music.
The slow movement opens atmospherically, with a slight hint
of Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain. It’s a lovely
impressionistic piece drenched in beautiful melodies. The finale
bubbles along genially.
The disc takes its title from Mirror of Eternity, a
work for flute, strings and percussion. Boustany himself commissioned
the work from his fellow-Lebanese composer Houstaf Khoury; not
to be confused with the Franco-Lebanese Bechara el-Khoury (Naxos
several of whose works in performances featuring the same orchestra
and conductor have found their way onto Naxos recordings. Coincidentally
enough Houstaf Khoury used to work for the same company. This
is the première recording. Khoury’s rather brief booklet note
states that the work has “a socio-philosophic message, reflecting
life in the Arab world, where society remains enclosed and entrenched.”
I have been unable to find a date of composition for this work
on the composer’s website, but the recording was made in 2005.
It opens reflectively with a meditative Lento of great
stillness and intense beauty. Boustany’s playing here is perfection.
The music then becomes more troubled, but even here the flute
floats a layer of benediction over the restless string harmonies
and quietly menacing timpani. The second movement is more lively,
described by the composer as “a life of cabarets and dancers”.
It builds up a fair head of steam with some stunning playing
from Boustany although some of the string playing sounds a trifle
under-powered – one would welcome a more ‘beefy’ sound. It leads
directly into the final movement, a return to the reflective
mood of the opening and a beautifully protracted farewell. The
string playing here is dark and luscious. It is delightful to
find a modern composer who is willing to write music that is
both approachable and attractive at first hearing. I look forward
to making his further acquaintance. The composer is credited
as producer of this CD, and presumably this performance and
recording accurately reflect his intentions; he should certainly
be more than satisfied with it.
Yevhen Stankovych studied with Liatoshinsky in Kiev, and is
better known as the composer Evgeny Stankovich three of whose
symphonies have featured on a Marco Polo release with this same
orchestra conducted by Theodore Kuchar; presumably the form
used on the current CD is the Ukrainian version of the name.
I was not over-impressed with the symphonies, although they
are clearly deeply felt works - Rob Barnett reviewed the Marco
Polo CD for this site along with the ballet suite Rasputin
- but this Chamber Symphony for flute and strings is
a gem. Again it opens in a meditative mood, but soon the flute
takes off into a lively dance-like movement which if not as
immediately attractive as the Khoury work has plenty of life
and fizz. Boustany is excellent, combining flutter-tongued phrases
with natural legato as if it were the most natural
thing in the world. The music is a bit episodic, moving rather
abruptly from one mood to another, but it hardly qualifies as
the “stark and obsessive” work the composer describes in his
own programme note. The “sudden moments of visionary peace”
are indeed visionary, with some spellbindingly beautiful playing
from the soloist. Some of the string playing in the more agitated
and emotional sections is again in need of greater security
and warmth, but these are only momentary lapses which are quickly
redeemed by passages of intense feeling and virtuosity.
In an introductory note to the recording Boustany says: “This
music carries with it a dream: that mankind can one day reach
beyond make-believe boundaries imposed by ourselves … be free
to see and exploit the endless possibility that life is when
unrestricted and unconditional love are the heart of who we
are.” High principles indeed, but with music as deeply felt
as this and such generally superb recording and performance
this disc goes some way to justifying them. Khoury’s Mirror
of Eternity comes very near indeed.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
also review by Steve Arloff