Sounds from Within ...
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Ballade for flute and piano [7:23]
Simon HOLT (b.1958)
Maiastra for solo flute* [10:24]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Suite Paysanne Hongroise for flute and piano (arrangements of Chants populaires tristes, for flute and piano, by Paul Arma) [13:13]
Wissam BOUSTANY (b.1960)
Improvisation I for solo flute [7:42]
Bohuslav MARTINU (1890-1959)
Sonata No.1 for flute and piano [19:07]
Wissam Boustany (flute); Stefan Warzycki (piano)
rec. 6-7 September 1990, St.George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol, UK.
* premičre recording
NIMBUS NI 6166 [58:13]
 
This is yet another winning disc from Lebanese flautist Wissam Boustany. It’s the third I have reviewed in as many months and there were two others that slipped past me! This time he is accompanied only by piano. The choice of repertoire is a perfect one that enables the flute to shine even more than previously.
 
The disc opens with Ballade for flute and piano by Swiss composer Frank Martin which has proved such a successful composition that it has been transcribed - by Ernest Ansermet - for both piano and strings and full orchestra. It is a wonderful piece that allows the flute full rein to show its many and varied colouration. The ballade format appears to have been a particular form of choice for Martin who wrote others for piano and orchestra, trombone and piano, cello and piano and viola and orchestra. The liner notes suggest that they may all have been written as preparations for his most substantial and best-known work, the Petite Symphonie Concertante for harp, harpsichord, piano and double string orchestra (1945). In any event it is a highly successful and really satisfying work full of beauty and allowing the flute to show itself as the truly gorgeous instrument it is.
 
A premičre recording follows of a work by British composer Simon Holt who, I noted with interest went to the same school as my wife and brother-in-law, only a little later. Holt wrote it for Boustany when they were both students at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK where Boustany now teaches. This work for solo flute is a real virtuosic one that taxes the flautist to the limit with several different ways of playing explored in its ten minute span. Its title refers to a bird from Romanian folklore that was the subject of a work by Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi dating from 1915. The flute is the obvious instrument of choice when imitation of a bird is called for and this piece is a wonderful example of this and I loved the way that the song gradually disappeared at the close as the bird flew off.
 
The international nature of music was once again brought home to me with the next piece in which a Lebanese flautist and a half Polish, half Japanese pianist played a composition by a Hungarian born in what is now Romania and whose mother was of German and Slovak origin! The Chansons tristes of which these are arrangements are brilliant miniatures. Bartók was justly famous for them. They stemmed from his sterling work in collecting folk music from all over the Hungarian and Romanian lands. They might otherwise have died along with the peasants who sang or played them. If there are any music-lovers who are still wary of the name of Bartók for fear he might prove too ‘modern’ or too abstract for them then they should certainly begin with works like this. They are so quintessentially folkloric in nature and so refreshing and exciting in their treatment. Bartók had an almost unique facility for distilling the very essence of peasant melodies and presenting them in a classical music setting that only enhanced their humble origins. These lovely songs work absolutely brilliantly as arranged for flute and piano. The two players are totally at home with them bringing out every nuance to perfection.
 
When we leave Bartók it is for a work written by Wissam Boustany himself. This is entitled Improvisation I for solo flute about which he has written that improvisation has always fascinated him. He tells us that he has tried to use it to find his own voice and also to express his sadness for his homeland which has suffered so terribly as a result of the continuing conflict that blights the Middle East. He explains that by its very nature the duration and basic notes change each time he plays it though it is based around some fixed general ideas. One can clearly discern the influence of the Middle East in this work which exerts a spellbinding hold upon the listener for its short seven minute presence.
 
The last work on this impressive disc is by a favourite composer of mine who is one of those whose musical signature I find immediately identifiable. Martinu’s Sonata for flute and piano is typical of his writing which always incorporates elements of Czech and Moravian folk music. What I always find infectious about Martinu’s music is that it is mostly upbeat and happy sounding with an inbuilt ‘feel good’ factor; this work is no exception. The recognisable Martinu is evident right from the piano’s opening notes and is there throughout the three movements. The flute carries on an intense dialogue with the piano for the work’s entire nineteen minutes. Martinu wrote particularly well for the flute but then I can’t think of any instrument he didn’t write well for! He had a unique voice and anyone who feels about him as I do will love this work too and revel in the beautiful way it is played here.
 
Wissam Boustany is an absolute wizard on his chosen instrument and this disc will help to increase his profile yet further. He is one of the world’s great flautists and deservedly so. His accompanist here is entirely in sympathy at every turn and has served him very well indeed. A great disc in every way.
 
Steve Arloff
 
A great disc in every way