WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

The Phoenix

Braun / Eitan / Shalev / Luz
Release Date: 10/30/2012 
Label:  Roméo Records   Catalog #: 7291   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Yehezkel BraunRotem Luz
Performer:  Rotem LuzUzi ShalevLior EitanDan Moshayev
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 30 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale! $18.98
CD:  $15.99
In Stock



Notes and Editorial Reviews



BRAUN Bassoon Sonata. Sonata for Solo Flute. Three Songs of Zion for Bassoon and Piano. Sonata piccola for Piccolo and Piano. Tchiri-Biri-Bom for Two Bassoons. Piano Sonata No. 2. Psalms for Bassoon and Piano. The Phoenix for Bassoon and Percussion. Trio for Piccolo, Bassoon, and Piano. LUZ Piano Read more Sonata 1991. Pastorale for Flute, Bassoon, and Piano. Cana’anite Boats for Two Flutes. Scenes from the Red Sea for Flute and Piano Lior Eitan (fl, pic); Uzi Shalev (bn); Rotem Luz (pn); Dan Moshayev (perc) ROMÉO RECORDS 7291/2 (2 CDs: 150:26)


As is clear from the above interview, Rotem Luz (b. 1959) is the daughter of Yehezkel Braun (b. 1922). This two-disc Roméo Records set interleaves compositions by both of them, though the headnote collects the works by each composer together so as to avoid repeating the names. You may also notice that only one performer each is named for bassoon and for flute/piccolo. The pieces for two bassoons, Braun’s Tchiri-Biri-Bom , and for two flutes, Luz’s Cana’anite Boats , are overdubbed by the same player. One finger-wag at Roméo Records: Failure to provide track timings is not appreciated.


In at least one respect, the pieces offered here defy expectations. Those most recently composed are not by Rotem but by her father. Braun’s Trio for Piccolo, Bassoon, and Piano was written as recently as 2010, his Sonata Piccola for Piccolo and Piano, in 2009, and his Second Piano Sonata, was completed in 2009. Luz’s most recent work on these two discs is her 2009 Cana’anite Boats for Two Flutes, but its first movement, Prelude, is a piece she wrote in 1977 while still in high school. In the case of Braun’s works, with the exception of a 1987 revision of the 1954 Sonata for Flute Solo, there’s over a 20-year gap in the chronology; compositions from the 1980s and 1990s are absent. The Phoenix , from which the album takes its title, dates from 1962, while the Three Songs of Zion for Bassoon and Piano and Psalms for Bassoon and Piano both date from 1974.


Braun is an unapologetic romantic. The Larghetto from his Bassoon Sonata (2003) is sure to bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat. The program note cites Ravel as an influence, and I have to admit that some of Ravel’s diaphanous textures do come to mind. But there’s also a slightly exotic air to the music and, the more I listen to it, the more it reminds me of some of the nostalgia-laced, poignant slow movements in Poulenc’s wind works. The Sonata for Flute Solo is one of Braun’s earliest works. Melismas around the augmented second between the sixth and raised seventh degree of the harmonic minor scale—as in C-D? in E Minor, the main key of the piece—impart the familiar Middle Eastern flavor. Braun relates that the sound he was aiming for was one he heard as a youth when he came upon a flute made of fine black wood and having no keys, just finger holes. That pure, pellucid tone is beautifully conveyed by the sonata, which is no miniature; its three movements last 12-and-half minutes.


The Three Songs of Zion, Tchiri-Biri-Bom , and Psalms for Bassoon and Piano, were composed as pedagogical pieces for bassoon students. The music is based on Zionist folk songs of various Jewish ethnic groups, the sources for which are said to have originated with Yoel Engel and his Society for Jewish Folk Music in St. Petersburg in 1908.


Curiosity sent me in search of other composers who might have written sonatas for piccolo and piano. Surprisingly, I found more than I would have expected, but Braun’s opus is a real charmer. Its first movement is a busy, frothy, moto-perpetuo-type piece that recalls the music of Les Six, particularly Milhaud. The second movement, once again, like the Larghetto of the bassoon sonata, contains sections of a static, pristine beauty reminiscent of Satie, but in this case, alternating with rapid sections of counterpoint between piccolo and piano in an almost Bach-like style. Admittedly, I haven’t heard too many piccolo sonatas, but I can’t imagine this one by Braun not being in the repertoire of every piccolo player. This is an amazing work that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and put a swing in your step.


At first, Braun’s Piano Sonata No. 2 knocked me for a bit of a loop because it wasn’t what I’d come to expect from his pieces on disc 1. There seems to be a jazz element present in the very rhythmic, percussive first movement that recalls Bartók and Prokofiev. But the romantic Braun will out in the sonata’s two inner movements, while the last movement is, once again, in a fast, metronomic, perpetual motion, Bach-like manner that reminds me of Bach’s Italian Concerto.


Anyone hearing this music for the first time would realize that Braun is a significant composer and that this album containing a number of his works is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, included in Volume 49 of the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music on Naxos is Braun’s Hallel Service, reviewed in 30:3, and quite a few of his works have been recorded by various artists and labels.


The Trio for Piccolo, Bassoon, and Piano shares characteristics of style in common with the Sonata piccola , and, if possible, it’s even more immediately delightful. Its first movement conjures images of nimble fingers busily at work in a toy shop. The 88-year-old Braun composed the piece especially for this album, and based on the sound of this music what a perky, pixyish 88-year-old he must be. No grumpy old man, Braun; this piece makes you want to pinch his cheeks.


I’m hesitant to peg The Phoenix for Bassoon and Percussion as out of character for Braun, because first of all it’s a much earlier work, and second, it’s of a different purpose than his other works on these discs. According to the note, it was composed for dancer and choreographer Naomi Eliskovsky, one of the foremost creators of Israeli modern dance. The piece is one of Braun’s few flirtations with serial technique, a fling that was quickly abandoned. Perhaps I have too vivid an imagination, but I hear in the piece a kind of gradually intensifying eroticism and visualize a stripped down (no pun intended) choreography suggestive of Strauss’s Dance of the Seven Veils.


Turning finally to the works by Rotem Luz, it shouldn’t be a surprise that her musical vernacular is of a more modern bent than her father’s, but it’s far from anything that smacks of the avant-garde. In fact, listening to her Piano Sonata 1991 , I was reminded a bit of some of the piano works of Barber, who she admits has been one of the influences on her music. In the second movement of the piece, however, the elements of improvisation, of which Luz also speaks at length, make their presence strongly felt. The third movement is a lighthearted, frisky fugue. The Pastorale for Flute, Bassoon, and Piano is a fairly simple diatonic piece based on a modal scale. In its sort of virginal purity it conveys a feeling not unlike Braun’s Sonata for Flute Solo.


Luz’s piece for two flutes, titled Cana’anite Boats , seems to be some sort of study in intersecting and reflecting sound waves, much like the swells generated by two boats passing each other. I’m just guessing at the possible meaning of the title, because Luz notes that the work was “influenced by the sound created by the passage between two loudspeakers.” The piece is based on a 12-tone row, but in the two outer movements, the overall impression remains one of a kind of gentle rocking, as if the boats are moored opposite each other. In the middle Interlude, which is more animated, the feeling is one of a little surface choppiness causing the boats to bob up and down. Scenes from the Red Sea for Flute and Piano is a work made up of four movements originally written as separate, independent pieces. Several influences come into play including the Middle Eastern modal element, the improvisational, and, at last, that of the composer who Luz claims most influenced her, Hindemith.


Together, the two composers and four musicians on these two discs provide two-and-a-half hours of nearly unalloyed beautiful music. The “nearly” qualification is to single out The Phoenix , which is not without interest, but is not what I would call beautiful. Flute and piccolo player Lior Eitan, bassoonist Uzi Shalev, and Rotem Luz as pianist, are masters of their instruments and consummate musicians. I accord this release my highest recommendation.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for bassoon & piano by Yehezkel Braun
Performer:  Rotem Luz (Piano), Uzi Shalev (Bassoon)
Written: 2003 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 20 Minutes 39 Secs. 
2.
Flute Sonata by Yehezkel Braun
Performer:  Lior Eitan (Flute)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1955 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 12 Minutes 28 Secs. 
3.
Songs of Zion (3) for bassoon & piano by Yehezkel Braun
Performer:  Uzi Shalev (Bassoon), Rotem Luz (Piano)
Written: 1974 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 6 Minutes 14 Secs. 
4.
Piano Sonata by Rotem Luz
Performer:  Rotem Luz (Piano)
Written: 1991 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 14 Minutes 3 Secs. 
5.
Sonata for piccolo & piano ("Sonata piccola") by Yehezkel Braun
Performer:  Lior Eitan (Piccolo), Rotem Luz (Piano)
Written: 2009 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 13 Minutes 4 Secs. 
6.
Tchiri-biri-bom, for 2 bassoons by Yehezkel Braun
Performer:  Uzi Shalev (Bassoon)
Written: 1974 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 3 Minutes 18 Secs. 
7.
Pastorale, for flute, bassoon & piano (orig. for violin, cello & piano) by Rotem Luz
Performer:  Rotem Luz (Piano), Uzi Shalev (Bassoon), Lior Eitan (Flute)
Written: 1997 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 5 Minutes 31 Secs. 
8.
Piano Sonata No. 2 by Yehezkel Braun
Performer:  Rotem Luz (Piano)
Written: 2005-2009 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 21 Minutes 46 Secs. 
9.
Psalms, for bassoon & piano by Yehezkel Braun
Performer:  Uzi Shalev (Bassoon), Rotem Luz (Piano)
Written: 1974 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 4 Minutes 33 Secs. 
10.
The Phoenix, for bassoon & percussion by Yehezkel Braun
Performer:  Dan Moshayev (Percussion), Uzi Shalev (Bassoon)
Written: 1962 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 5 Minutes 50 Secs. 
11.
Cana'anite Boats, for 2 flutes by Rotem Luz
Performer:  Lior Eitan (Flute)
Written: 1977 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 9 Minutes 25 Secs. 
12.
Scenes from the Red Sea, for flute & piano by Rotem Luz
Performer:  Rotem Luz (Piano), Lior Eitan (Flute)
Written: 1987 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 10 Minutes 15 Secs. 
13.
Trio for piccolo, bassoon & piano by Yehezkel Braun
Performer:  Rotem Luz (Piano), Uzi Shalev (Bassoon), Lior Eitan (Piccolo)
Written: 2010 
Date of Recording: 2009-11 
Venue:  The Classical Studio, Herzlia B, Israel 
Length: 18 Minutes 17 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook




YOU MUST BE A SUBSCRIBER TO LISTEN - TRY IT FREE!
Listen to all your favorite classical music for only $20/month.
Sign up for your monthly subscription service and get unlimited access to the most comprehensive digital catalog of classical music in the world - new releases. bestsellers, advanced releases and more.
Aleady a subscriber? Sign In