Notes and Editorial Reviews
Melinda Wagner's Pulitzer Prize-winning Flute Concerto receives its premiere recording by the commissioning artists in this generally excellent performance. I have no doubts at all about the quality of the music itself: Wagner clearly thought carefully about problems of balance and blend, and in choosing an orchestra of strings and percussion, with a profusion of keyboards, mallets, and bells, she has created a magical framework in which to highlight the solo instrument. The sheer sound of this piece is utterly beguiling. Cast in the traditional three movements, Wagner's idiom in this concerto is fundamentally atonal, though with motives and tunes that are clearly recognizable and often quite beautiful. The extraordinary slow movement
reveals the composer's gift for sustaining interest over a lengthy span of intensely quiet music, and the orchestral performance there, as well as in the two quicker parts, is simply spectacular. I am less impressed with Paul Lustig Dunkel's flute playing; his low tones develop such a huge "beat" whenever he needs to sustain them that he sounds like he's actually playing subdivided note values, and this habit disfigures stretches of that haunting slow movement. He's certainly up to the concerto's more virtuoso demands, however, and he dispatches the fast music with aplomb.
Poul Ruders' Concerto in Pieces commemorates both Henry Purcell and the 50th Anniversary of the first performance of Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. Like Britten, Ruders takes a theme from Purcell's theater music, in this case the Witches' Chorus from the beginning of the second act of Dido and Aeneas. He subjects this somewhat minimalist theme to a series of brilliant and resourceful variations, culminating in the obligatory (but certainly not perfunctory) fugue. The scoring includes wonderful solos for harp, muted trumpet, and saxophone, as well as some tastefully integrated electronics. Alternately witty, warm, and wild, Concerto in Pieces is a masterpiece on a par with Britten's own. Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra offer a dazzling performance that, in its way, is every bit as fine as that of Wagner's Flute Concerto.
Both works are very well recorded, and Bridge tosses in interviews with both composers to fill up the otherwise short playing time. Had Dunkel's legato been smoother, this would have been a "10". Hopefully, flutists everywhere will take a good, hard look at this impressive addition to a repertoire desperately in need of distinguished new works.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Flute, Strings and Percussion by Melinda Wagner
Paul Dunkel (Flute)
Period: 20th Century
Written: by 1999; USA
Date of Recording: 10/25/1999
Venue: SUNY Purchase, Purchase, NY
Length: 24 Minutes 30 Secs.
Concerto in Pieces by Poul Ruders
Sir Andrew Davis
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1994-1995; Denmark
Date of Recording: 05/31/1995
Venue: BBC Studios, Maida Vale, London
Length: 17 Minutes 14 Secs.
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