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Great Works for Flute and Orchestra
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, FS119 [16:16]
Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES (1884-1920)
Poem for Flute and Orchestra (1918) [9:57]
Carl REINECKE (1824-1910)
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in D, Op.283 [18:08]
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944) Concertino for Flute and Orchestra, Op.107 [7:07]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Largo and Allegro for flute and strings (1863-64) (adapted by Ernest Sauter) [3:53]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Flute Sonata (1956-57) (orch. Lennox Berkeley) [11:27]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
The Flight of the Bumblebee (1899-1900) (arr. Kalevi Aho) [1:02]
Sharon Bezaly (flute)
Residentie Orkest Den Haag/Neeme Järvi
rec. August 2007 and June 2008 (Nielsen), Anton Philipszaal, The Hague
BIS BIS-SACD-1679 [69:25]

When Sharon Bezaly releases a new album, the critic’s job is basically to inform you that it exists. She’s so good, so consistent, and so adventurous, that it’s nearly impossible to go wrong. Here she tackles the well-known Nielsen Flute Concerto, with admirably crisp, incisive accompaniment by the Residentie Orkest and Neeme Järvi - those thrilling timpani. Then it’s on to less well-known works like the gay American impressionist Charles Griffes’ Poem, a sort of Debussy-goes-west tone picture. Carl Reinecke’s rather old-fashioned concerto, from the Germanic school of Mendelssohn, sticks to gentle lyricism and weaves the flute through almost every bar. When the flute is silent, the clarinet is playing, as at the start of finale, where it seems to hijack the concerto. Maybe it’s Bezaly’s constant presence, but for once Järvi’s icy demeanour doesn’t de-romanticize the affair.
 
Although the miniatures by Chaminade and Tchaikovsky are appealing, my favourite works are the two saved for last. Francis Poulenc’s flute sonata is unutterably wonderful and a classic. This is an orchestration by his friend Lennox Berkeley, who does a better job than I had expected. My colleague Brian Wilson says he might even prefer this to the original. I’ve certainly listened to it many times over, even separately from the rest of the album. Then there’s the encore, an imaginative, Technicolor rewrite of Flight of the Bumblebee by Kalevi Aho. Bezaly dances through a flurry of notes while the brass section snarls and the rest of the orchestra moves like pieces in a kaleidoscope.
 
Although the violins get audibly lazy from 7:25 in the Griffes work, the orchestra is generally very good, with piercing horns and Järvi’s usual rhythmically snappy percussion sections. The recorded sound, on the FLACs I downloaded from eClassical, is pretty much astonishing. If you want to show off your stereo system with a flute album for some reason, this is the one.
 
Brian Reinhart 

Previous review: Dave Billinge


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