Thursday, 22 March 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, March 2018)

Flute Sonatas
BIS 2259 / *****

The surnames of flautist Sharon Bezaly and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy are printed in a large gold font, sitting pretty on top of composers Cesar Franck, Gabriel Fauré and Sergei Prokofiev, as if relegating them to secondary importance. Such is the cult of big-name performers, supposedly to enhance the desirability of recordings, not that it matters much in this case.

Flautists have since time immemorial appropriated the wider repertoire of violinists, and this disc displays two famous examples. Both Cesar Franck's Violin Sonata in A major (in Jean-Pierre Rampal's adaptation) and Gabriel Faure's Violin Sonata No.1 (arranged by Bezaly herself) translate very well for the flute, which occupies mostly the same register as the violin. Given Bezaly’s nimbleness and virtuosity, these exemplary performances do much to further that proposition,

Operating in the reverse direction, Prokofiev's Flute Sonata was later published as his Violin Sonata No.2. Although less often heard than its violin guise, the original work is beloved of flautists. One of the Russian's most lyrical scores, Bezaly makes most of its bittersweet musings. 

Ashkenazy, who no longer gives public piano performances, is the ideal partner in all three works, where the piano plays an extraordinarily demanding role. The recording is in the demonstration class and makes for pleasurable listening.       

This was the 2222th article/review I wrote for The Straits Times, a journey which began with a review of Evelyn Glennie's concert in the 20 June 1997 issue. 

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