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

See also review by Steve Arloff
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 Naxos Forlane), 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 (ASV) - 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
Music that is deeply felt superbly performed and recorded.