Sharon Bezaly / John Neschling

Bridge Across the Pyrenees

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

Israeli-born flutist Sharon Bezaly now lives in Sweden, where this recording was made with a Brazilian orchestra and conductor (a grand-nephew of Arnold Schoenberg). The program is international as well, with entertaining liner notes presenting an instructive short history of the musical relationship between France and Spain. It is intriguing to learn, for instance, that Prosper Mérimée, the original author of the Carmen tale, once wrote that "Africa begins on the other side of the Pyrenees." But the real attraction here is Bezaly, a virtuosa of the kind that's not much made anymore. Her circular-breathing techniques seem to make the flute sound almost continuously, and she has both tremendous speed and, paradoxical as the word may sound when applied to a flute, power. The best is saved for last: Jacques Ibert's Flute Concerto of 1934 has sharp outer movements that allow Bezaly to show her best stuff, with flute lines that constantly whirl around the orchestral texture. Sample the beginning of the final movement, track seven, where the flutist has to answer block chords with a flurry of notes; by the time Bezaly gets into her lines, your attention is riveted on her. The concerto's modal central movement is lovely, and Bezaly's performance shows her to be as charismatic in cantabile lines as in furious passagework. The program definitely ramps up; the opening Concierto Pastorale of Joaquín Rodrigo, from 1978, is idiomatically written for the flute but is lacking in melodic inspiration. The middle movement starts out in the vein of the Concierto de Aranjuez but devolves into exchanges of banal calls between flute and orchestra. But things pick up with the almost unknown Fantaisie brillante sur des airs de Carmen of François Borne, an unusually thoughtful entry in the long line of virtuoso works based on operatic tunes; Bezaly's performance of the "Habanera," made into a sinuous, seductive piece of atmosphere, is exquisite. The São Paulo Symphony Orchestra under John Neschling offers elegant, flexible support well attuned to the essentially neo-Classic language of the two outer concertos on the program. The disc as a whole is well worth hearing for anyone wondering who's going to fill the shoes of the Rampals and the Galways.

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