This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Another imaginative, well-executed offering from BIS.
MASTERWORKS FOR FLUTE AND PIANO II • Sharon Bezaly (fl); Ronald Brautigam (pn) • BIS 1729 (SACD: 59:23)
POULENC Sonata. MARTIN Read more class="ARIAL12b">Ballade. REINECKE Sonata, “Undine”. MARTIN? Sonata. MESSIAEN Le Merle noir
This is the second volume of this series, the pithy and ecstatic review of the first by Peter J. Rabinowitz (where he quotes from other equally impressed Fanfaristas) appearing in 29: 6. There is really nothing much more to say about Bezaly’s playing; she is, if not the greatest, then one of the most outstanding exponents of her instrument today, and Bis was lucky enough to latch onto her some 20 albums ago and continues to make these wonderful Super Audio recordings.
On this disc we are a little more mainstreamed in approach, with several of the selections quite familiar, at least to flute lovers. Poulenc’s sonata leads the pack, one of his best from around 1957, simply effervescent and joyous from start to finish, the aural equivalent of dancing on clouds. I had to hunt down Wolfgang Schulz’s recording with James Levine from a mandatory 1989 issue of Poulenc’s chamber music (DG) to find a worthy comparison. The Reinecke, also a standard, was written in the composer’s 40s (1882) under the influence of Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s story about a mermaid who marries a young knight and acquires a human soul only to have her heart broken because of his infidelities; should have stayed in the water, I guess. But the story line is only ancillary, the sonata a wonderful example of romantic structure that characterizes a verbal outline without becoming slavish to it. My favorite to this point—now supplanted—is Jeffrey Khaner’s reading on Avie, a recording that should not be missed if for no other reason than its attractive romantic program.
The Martin? might be called a “sub-standard” not because of quality but because more flutists haven’t seemed to pick up on it yet. Like almost all of this composer’s work, it contains wonders aplenty and umpteen ear-opening examples of structural genius, aside from Martin?’s own deliciously unparagoned way with melody. Marc-André Hamelin (piano) and Alain Marion (flute) offer a somewhat different view on Analekta, perhaps more enervating and lively, but I doubt Bezaly will have you searching for alternatives. Two pieces here were written for competitions; Frank Martin’s inventive Ballade was written as a compulsory piece for Geneva in 1939 while Olivier Messiaen’s Le Merle noir (The Blackbird) was for the Paris Conservatory in 1951, the prototype of a series of pieces that explored the very intentional grounding of birdsong into the very fabric of an instrument. The Martin can be found in its orchestral guise (done a few years later by the composer) on a wonderful recording by Celia Chambers on an all-Martin album of his ballades (Chandos, conducted by Bambert).
So in short, this is terrific stuff, bedrock material for any serious collection and absolutely foundational for anybody claiming to have a good series of flute albums.
Sharon Bezaly and Ronald Brautigam are two of the brightest stars in the musical firmament, so BIS are indeed fortunate to have them on their roster of artists. Bezaly first came to my attention in Seascapes, but has since caught my ear in a number of recitals, among them Nordic Spell and From A to Z. Paradoxically, hers is a powerful yet unassuming talent, whereas Brautigam – whose Beethoven sonata series continues apace – strikes me as a much bigger, more forceful musical personality. That said, he scales the Mendelssohn piano concertos most beautifully qualities I was looking for here as well.
At first glance it’s quite an eclectic selection, but that’s no bad thing. All too often programmes clustered around broadly similar repertoire (stylistically at least) are apt to pall after a while. But three-quarters of a century and several musical traditions separate the pieces by Carl Reinecke and Francis Poulenc; the latter’s
Sonata gets this disc off to a promising start. The ‘rolling boil’ of the flute’s opening phrases – not to mention the seemingly effortless trills – are well matched by Brautigam’s nicely nuanced pianism. There are no really extreme dynamics here – well, not unless one counts the mercurial
Prestogiocoso – and that, along with BIS’s warm, well-balanced recording, makes for a most relaxing listen.
A hugely encouraging start, and a riposte to all those acid audiophiles who insist that non-DSD Super Audio CDs recorded at lower bit rates are a compromise too far. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find a better blend of sonic virtues than those on show here. Swiss composer Frank Martin’s
Ballade is a case in point, the restless murmur of piano and flute at the start superbly captured. Bezaly’s range and control at both frequency extremes is just remarkable; high notes are firm and clear, the lower registers wonderfully liquid, especially in the solo passage that begins at 3:06. There’s a pleasing sense of proportion too, and one feels this really is a marriage of true minds, Brautigam scaling the music’s more rugged terrain with ease.
Predictably perhaps, Carl Reinecke’s
‘Undine’ sonata has all the evanescent charm one expects from such fare. And no, predictable does not mean humdrum; Bezaly conjures up the lightest, loveliest sounds, building a rainbow bridge under which the piano part flows most agreeably. But it’s the third movement, marked
Andante tranquillo, where Brautigam seems to get the upper hand. As seductive as the flute playing undoubtedly is, I found myself following the pianist more carefully than before. And just listen to those giddy upward spirals in the final movement, Brautigam bringing the music back to earth with a mix of passion and power. As for the restraint and repose of the closing bars, it’s most sensitively done. No, it isn’t great music, but when it’s played this well who could possibly complain?
The soloists shadow each other to great effect in the Martin?
Sonata, a work whose carapace conceals a surprisingly lyrical centre. Brautigam and Bezaly are very well matched in the animated first
Allegro, the latter’s tone characterised by an appealing breathiness in the lower registers. As flute recordings go, this recital really does capture the velvet and steel duality of the instrument most effectively. Indeed, I can see this being used as a demonstration disc, especially when it comes to the long, sustained phrases that round off the
Adagio. As for the piece itself, those who don’t know it will engage with its easygoing, yet entirely individual, character. Another nugget in this most desirable pot, and a piece I will return to with great pleasure.
But it’s Messiaen’s
Le merle noir (the blackbird) that’s the most inspired choice here. For a composer who rejoiced in the monumental it’s good to be reminded that he is every bit as persuasive in miniature. And just as Hopkins delighted in the wonders of
The Windhover, so Messiaen’s blackbird soars and sings above an undergrowth of dark, fleeting dissonances, Bezaly despatching those microtones and flourishes with great skill and confidence. Outwardly
Le merle noir might seem a tad austere, but even those who don’t usually warm to Messiaen’s cooler idiom will surely respond positively to this miraculous miniature.
So, another imaginative, well-executed offering from BIS. I have yet to hear the first volume in the series, but if the present disc is anything to go by it should be on the wish-list of all those who enjoy the genre. It’s certainly on mine.
Sonata for Flute and Pianoby Bohuslav Martinu Performer:
Sharon Bezaly (Flute),
Ronald Brautigam (Piano)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1945; USA
Le merle noirby Olivier Messiaen Performer:
Sharon Bezaly (Flute),
Ronald Brautigam (Piano)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1951; France
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Dazzling display of artistry and musicalityOctober 18, 2012By NEIL INGLIS (Bethesda, MD)See All My Reviews"A cascade of moods, textures, and magical moments in this terrific album from the Israeli flautist. Equally in command in all genres, moving from poetic to profound to pixieish and back again. First encountered Bezaly in her highly impressive Mozart recordings (and Mozart didn't even like the flute!). Recorded sound excellent."Report Abuse