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Richard FLURY (1896–1967)
Orchestral Pieces from “Casanova” (1937) [11:29]
Violin Concerto No. 2 (1940) [26:28]
Symphony No. 1 in D Minor (1922-23) [35:10]
Ulf Hoelscher (violin)
Bieler Sinfonie Orchester/Urs Joseph Flury
Recording details not given
VDE-GALLO CD-1385 [73:33]

Richard Flury was born in Biberist, Northern Switzerland in 1896 and studied music in Geneva, Basel and Bern. His teachers included Hans Huber (composition) and Felix Weingartner (conducting), and later Joseph Marx in Vienna. He remained a home bird, never venturing very far from his home town, teaching violin and conducting local Swiss orchestras. As a composer, he was prolific with three operas, several concertos, seven string quartets, some violin sonatas, piano works, four masses and other sacred music in his output. He died in Biberist in 1967.

When you consider his dates, you’ll be taken by surprise listening to his music. He was conservative and a traditionalist, and his music is firmly rooted in the neo-romantic tradition. He turned his back on many modern trends and developments, remaining entrenched in his comfort zone. His appeal lies in his melodic gifts, his colourful orchestration, imaginative harmonies and well-crafted scoring. In the 1930s he did dip his toe into the waters of modernism and free tonality but found them too hot to handle. Throughout his life he received the advocacy of many prominent musicians of the day, such names as Alfred Cortot, Wilhelm Backhaus, Pablo Casals, Georg Kulenkampff, Joseph Szigeti, Richard Strauss and Hermann Scherchen.

Flury completed his opera Casanova e l’Albertolli in 1937, but because of other compositional commitments, it was given over to his friend Edouard Favre to orchestrate. These three orchestral excerpts are delightful. The first two ooze warmth and bountiful lyricism, the third is a military march, and sounds very English and Edwardian.

The Second Violin Concerto came three years later. Flury was a fine violinist himself, and he writes very idiomatically for the instrument. It was given as a birthday present to his second wife Rita, who performed the last two movements in a concert accompanied by her husband at the piano. It remained in piano score until after the composer’s death, when it was orchestrated by his son Urs Joseph, who premiered it on the violin in this final form in 1969. It adopts the standard three movement classical structure. The opener is full of ardent yearning, with the violin taking on a fairly improvisatory role. The slow movement is lyrically tender and imbued with aching beauty. The finale provides something of a technical challenge to the performer. The mood is infectiously exuberant and joyous.

The earliest composition here is the First Symphony in D minor, written between 1922-1923. It was Flury’s first major work. Against shimmering strings, the oboe ushers in proceedings with a melancholic lament, soon taken up by the other forces. The mood at times becomes grandiose, at others it wallows in lush bucolic sentiment. The Andante con moto has a pastoral flavour to it, with woodwinds and harp conjuring up scenes of a brook, and strings depicting rolling landscapes. The Scherzo is flecked with some scintillating hues, with the textures light and airy. The rondo-like finale takes a motive from the first movement, which is augmented in the second movement, recalling it in the final pages and thus affording the work some thematic unity. I found it the least inspired of the movements.

Unusually, there are no recording dates given. Good sound quality and balance are consistent throughout. The Bieler Symphonie Orchester is conducted by the composer’s son, Urs Joseph Flury, who is also a composer and violinist. His deep understanding of his father’s music translates into captivating and compelling performances, which showcase the essence and beauty of these alluring scores.

Stephen Greenbank

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