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Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Flute Concerto [37:00]
Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (b. 1928)
Flute Concerto, op. 69 “Dances with the Winds”: original version for four flutes [20:35]
Flute Concerto, op. 69 “Dances with the Winds”: revised version for three flutes [20:30]
Sharon Bezaly (flutes)
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra/Enrique Diemecke (Khachaturian)
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Dima Slobodeniouk (Rautavaara)
rec. February 2010, Sala Sao Paulo, Brazil (Khachaturian), November 2014, Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland (Rautavaara)
BIS BIS-1849 [79:10]

Sharon Bezaly is likely the most well-known flute soloist since Jean-Pierre Rampal. The first work on this recording establishes a connection between the two. Rampal adapted Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto for flute, creating the Flute Concerto found here.

Is the Flute Concerto a lively romp, as one might expect from acquaintance with the ballets, particularly the Sabre Dance? Indeed it is. It’s hard to believe that, as the liner notes tell us, Khachaturian’s work was accused of “formalistic distortions”, and kept under wraps in the late 40’s and early 50’s, until the thaw after Stalin and Zhdanov. This work is vivid, but hardly abstract or “anti-democratic”.

Of course, the flute brings a completely different personality to a concerto than does a violin. In this work, however, as performed by Bezaly, there is no sacrifice in virtuosity or interest.

The orchestra accompanying in this concerto is the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. They are quickly building a worthy legacy of recordings, particularly on BIS and Naxos. Their work here adds to their stature. All told, the Khachaturian performance is highly recommended.

Rautavaara may be a Finn, but his Flute Concerto, titled “Dances with the Winds”, also comes with an air of the exotic and eastern. It is, however, a quieter and more introspective work. The notes remark on the influence of Debussy and Messiaen.

This concerto comes in two versions, both present on this recording. The first requires the soloist to switch among four flutes: piccolo, standard, alto, and bass. In the “more practical” second version, the alto flute also carries the parts written for the bass flute in the first version.

In the Rautavaara concerto, Bezaly is accompanied by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, conducted by its incoming music director Dima Slobodeniouk. The combination they produce for this work sounds like a cold, Nordic take on French Orientalism, with occasional outbursts that sound like “symphonic dances, with flutes”. I assume this is what the composer intended, but it’s an uneasy combination of flavours.

Khachaturian’s work is of lasting value. My opinion of Rautavaara’s is more ambivalent, but I do think it’s worth hearing and forming one’s own judgement. Given the two versions of the latter work, you won’t want to put this disc in and listen to it straight through in one sitting.
Brian Burtt



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