Wissam Boustany’s flute recital covers some stylistic ground, leading with Frank Martin and ending with Martinů but including one of the flautist’s own works, and one by Simon Holt along with an arrangement of Bartók’s Suite paysanne hongroise.
Martin’s Ballade was a test piece for an international flute competition written in favoured rhapsodic form, though the orchestral arrangement by Ernest Ansermet is also well-known. Martin manages to run from fluidity to stringent March themes in the blinking of an eye, generating terseness, urgency but also, later, opportunities for introspective legato that test the breath control and – just as important – the colouristic and descriptive skill of the player. The bell tolling is expertly realised here by Stefan Warzycki and the strong hints of lament and loss are compelling indices of some kind of darker narrative. Though that shouldn’t exclude appreciation of Boustany’s fine playing of the arabesques toward the Ballade’s end.
Simon Holt wrote Maiastra in 1981 and it’s played by its dedicatee here. Boustany first performed it in concert in 1983 and this recording followed seven years later. From that you’ll gather that the entire recital is now nearly 25 years old. This is a loquacious, insistent and sometimes frolicsome work. Its slow section is decidedly less feisty, even glowering in places, and uneasy, with little flute ‘pops’ to keep the ambient temperature high. Repeated phrases at the work’s close recede into the distance, quietly, quietly. The flautist’s own Improvisation I opens in a kind of stasis but don’t turn up the volume even though nothing much happens for the first 1:10. Then, with a whip crack punctuation mark, we’re off. The opening gestures are not in fact representative of the work as it unfolds. Certain features are pre-established but the improvisation comes between them. Ruminative and ever more quiet and questioning the music eventually trails off back into the silent realms whence it came.
The Martinů is the biggest and best-known piece here. It has received a number of recommendable recordings over many years. Boustany and Warzycki contribute a good reading to the catalogue, thoughtfully paced and sensitively shaped, with an especially good slow movement. That said, for sheer élan Rampal in one of his recordings (I like the one with Veyron-Lacroix but there are others) remains at the top of the pile. For a Czech view Jiří Válek with Josef Hala make a formidable and idiomatically very satisfying team – somewhat less extrovert than the Rampal teams but equally valid.
Still, if you were after the Martinů I don’t think you’d want the impedimenta in this 1990 Nimbus recording – you’d go for an all-Rampal or an all-Martinů disc. The sound here is largely attractive though the balance favours the flute. If the programme appeals then be assured that the performances are good.
Previous reviews: Steve Arloff ~~ Paul Corfield Godfrey