Sharon Bezaly

French Delights

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Israeli-born Swedish flutist Sharon Bezaly has been in the forefront of a group of players who have rediscovered the virtuoso literature of the flute (and other instruments) from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in France especially. She yields to no one in the technical arena, flawlessly executing the circular-breathing techniques and the careening arpeggiations written into the six works presented here. But this disc is about something other than sheer virtuosity -- although there is plenty of that on display here (check out the final Valse of Benjamin Godard's Suite de trois morceaux, Op. 116), the listener who is interested purely in technical frontiers might do just as well to check out her recording of Jacques Ibert's flute concerto, also on the BIS label. What's remarkable about this release is the rediscovery of music long since thrown onto the historical scrap heap, and the shaping of that music into a satisfying program. Bezaly brackets the program with showcases of technique -- the little-known Godard suite and the 1946 Sonatine of Pierre Sancan. Next, at each end, comes works with more complex rhythms or textures, the pleasing, slightly jazzy Sonatine of Milhaud, and another obscure work, the Suite for flute and piano, Op. 34, of Charles-Marie Widor, otherwise known mostly for his organ music and just a few pieces at that. In Bezaly's hands and that of pianist Love Derwinger, the flute and piano take on an almost organ-like sound, with dense harmonies filling out basically simple structures. With the center of the program, the listener comes, one might say, to the center of the mystery in the often Eastern-flavored Joueurs de flûte, Op. 27, and most surprisingly the Deux poèmes de Ronsard, Op. 26, for the rare combination of soprano and flute. Try playing the album for someone without describing its contents -- the ethereal African-American-Swedish singer Barbara Hendricks seems to come out of nowhere and lead the listener into a charmed realm to which Bezaly's playing has pointed the way. The program as a whole is light but wholly absorbing. If there's a complaint it's the sound, which does pick up the technical details but is on the harsh side, with lots of breathing noise that audiences simply wouldn't have heard or wanted to hear when these works were originally performed.

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