Classical CD Reviews

“Pipe Dreams” = JOSÉ SEREBRIER: Flute Concerto with Tango; ADINA IZARRA: Pitangus Sulphuratus; CARL VINE: Pipe Dreams; GINASTERA: Impresiones de la Puna – Sharon Bezaly, flute / Australian Ch. Orch./ Richard Tognetti – BIS

Virtuoso music for flute and strings, most of it with Latin American savor.

Published on December 20, 2012

“Pipe Dreams” = JOSÉ SEREBRIER: Flute Concerto with Tango; ADINA IZARRA: Pitangus Sulphuratus; CARL VINE: Pipe Dreams; GINASTERA: Impresiones de la Puna – Sharon Bezaly, flute / Australian Ch. Orch./ Richard Tognetti – BIS

“Pipe Dreams” = JOSÉ SEREBRIER: Flute Concerto with Tango; ADINA IZARRA: Pitangus Sulphuratus; CARL VINE: Pipe Dreams; GINASTERA: Impresiones de la Puna – Sharon Bezaly, flute/ Australian Ch. Orch./ Richard Tognetti – BIS CD-1789 [Distr. by Qualiton], 60:23 ****:

This is a largely breezy program of contemporary concerted flute music wherein Sharon Bezaly is asked not to intone like a Mozartian nightingale but flutter up and down the music staff like anxious little Bird in Peter and the Wolf. The pieces on display here are busy, but in a good way, keeping Ms. Bezaly as focused as a juggler about to sneeze.

José Serebrier, best-known as a conductor although his composing career has been long (his First Symphony premiered by Stokowski, no less, when Serebrier was only seventeen), contributes a full-fledged concerto “with tango,” the fourth movement being marked Tango inconclusivo. Serebrier explains, “The idea to leave the tango up in the air, in the middle of a phrase, came from the fact that a ‘true’ tango almost never has a final chord in the tonic key. If it should have one, this is traditionally played so softly as to be almost inaudible, and what the listener hears is the forceful dominant chord preceding it. I carried this concept a step further and left the music ‘unfinished’, leaving it to the listener to draw his own conclusions.” Except for this movement and the preceding lyrical Fantasia, there’s little repose in the work but instead darting passagework for the flute, the string orchestra playing catch-up when not racing ahead. It’s big and showy enough to commend itself to the repertoire of any flutist willing to accept the challenge.

Bird calls, or imitations of them, show up quite literally in Adina Izarra’s brief (fifteen minutes) concerto. The Pitangus sulphuratus of the title is a yellowish bird of Central and South America, including Izarra’s native Caracas Valley. The notes tell us that members of the species call antiphonally at dawn and dusk and that they’re noted for the wide variety of sounds that make up their songs. As a further imitative gesture, the flute soloist first plays offstage and then comes onstage, moving slowly to the front of the podium, a gimmick that a recording, at least a stereo recording, can only suggest. Slow and fast sections alternate throughout the work, the fast bits being “variations of the dance merengue, which in its Venezuelan variety has a unique 5/8 pulse, here also notated as 11/16”—again, keeping the soloist on her toes. The work was written in 1987, but Sharon Bezaly plays a revised version of 2007 dedicated to her.

I’m not familiar with the work of Carl Vine, although the name is familiar to me in connection with the Atlanta Olympics of 1996, for which he wrote music. I guess I should get acquainted because this Australian has an extensive catalog of compositions, including several concerti, seven symphonies, and five string quartets, as well as quite a bit of other chamber music. The conceit in his Pipe Dreams is to imagine what a flute might dream if it could dream. There is a certain dreaminess about the work, yes, but once more the flutist doesn’t get a chance to snooze—the piece keeps her quite active, thank you.

The program ends with another Latin American excursion, Alberto Ginastera’s Impresiones de la Puna, written in 1934 when the composer was a lad of eighteen. In the quechua language of the indigenous people of the central Andes, puna refers to the high plateaus that occur in these mountains. The piece evokes the sound of the quena, a notched transverse flute of the Andes, and captures the spirit of folk song and dance of the region. It’s typical Ginastera: lively, colorful, the perfect expression of his brand of musical nationalism.

Sharon Bezaly is certainly the right person to take on this assignment, with her lithe, bright tone and never-failing agility. Partnering with the strings of the Australian Chamber Orchestra rather than a larger body means that the accompaniments are as light and agile as her solo work. Recommended for anyone with an interest in concerted music for the flute and/or a taste for the musical flavors of Latin America.

—Lee Passarella




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