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Jaw-Dropping Technique

Sharon Bezaly plays
Gubaidulina, Beamish
and Takano -
recommended by

'... a beautiful tone at any volume in any octave ...'

Spellbound - Sharon Bezaly. © 2006-8 BIS Records AB

If you randomly spattered ink on staff paper, Sharon Bezaly could probably sight-read it and make it sound wonderful. Not that I suspect this was the composition technique here. I'm just saying. Who wouldn't want to write a concerto for this marvelous virtuoso? Though she's still in her thirties, at least thirteen have already been dedicated to her. (It's hard to establish the exact number since several more are always on the way.) She has a beautiful tone at any volume in any octave, nuanced dynamics and jaw-dropping technique. These works, all dedicated to her, are welcome new showcases. Mari Takano provides the only sunny vehicle. She channels Les Six and, for a bit of the third movement Bernstein, then the musical ornithologist Messaien in this portion of that concluding movement.

Listen -- Mari Takano: Walking (Concerto for Flute and String Orchestra)
(track 4, 3:39-4:46) © 2006-8 BIS Records AB

If Sofia Gubaidulina thinks of birds when she composes, they are surely vultures. Bezaly doesn't appear until well into ... The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair and, on first hearing, I mistook her appropriately ominous bass-flute for a bassoon.

Listen -- Sofia Gubaidulina: ... The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair
(track 1, 4:21-5:39) © 2006-8 BIS Records AB

The piece calls for both bass and standard flutes, but is more tone poem than flute concerto. It can be a shattering experience if you are receptive, a bit campy-horror-film if you're not. There are, in any event, several exciting, ear-catching passages including this swirling, then hammering conclusion.

Listen -- Sofia Gubaidulina: ... The Deceitful Face of Hope and of Despair
(track 1, 24:49-26:06) © 2006-8 BIS Records AB

Sally Beamish's concerto provides the greatest number of challenges to technique, and on four different instruments -- piccolo and alto, bass and standard flutes. The piece is explicitly programmatic. It was inspired by a reading of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Called the Callisto Flute Concerto, it follows the story of the nymph's transformations through hunter, hunted, bear and constellation. As though in an opera, the various themes represent characters in the myth. Here the flute reprises a Callisto melody just before the final change to piccolo.

Listen -- Sally Beamish: Callisto and Arcas (Callisto Flute Concerto)
(track 7, 5:37-7:19) © 2006-8 BIS Records AB

These new works are all worth hearing in their own right. Bezaly's playing, guided during the respective recording sessions by each of the composers, is admirable and presumably definitive, as is the conducting and orchestral support. If you haven't already, you should hear this flutist's work. Those interested in new music can start here or with the Aho concerto, a favorite in her live concert performances. Others may prefer a recording of more standard fare. Either way you'll be hearing one of the world's greatest musicians.

Copyright © 7 October 2009 Ron Bierman,
San Diego, USA






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