Nordic Spell

0 of 5 stars

Concerto for flute and orchestra
Flute Concerto No.2
The World of Montuagretta: Concerto for flute and chamber orchestra

Sharon Bezaly (flute)

Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä [Aho]

Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Bernhardur Wilkinson [Tómasson]

Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Christian Lindberg

Aho recorded on 28 & 29 November 2003 in the Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland; Lindberg recorded on 10 & 11 November 2003 in the Örebro Concert Hall, Sweden; Tómasson recorded in June 2004 at Háskólabíó, Reykjavík, Iceland

Reviewed by: Rob Witts

Reviewed: September 2005
Duration: 74 minutes

A disc of contemporary Scandinavian flute concertos might sound like the definitive niche product, but such misconceptions are dispelled by even a cursory listen. The fabulous musicianship of flautist Sharon Bezaly is the inspiration for a growing number of composers, and the three here demonstrate the freshness of Nordic music in recent years. It’s a substantial and well-rounded programme that moves from Aho’s delicate introversion to Lindberg’s irresistible good humour, unified by Bezaly’s effortless virtuosity. Performances throughout are committed and finely etched, captured in first-rate recordings.

Aho’s concerto has symphonic heft; the first movement alone lasts fifteen minutes, and builds slowly from sparse, windswept fragments to a powerful climax. Effective use is made of microtonal colouring, which casts a strange, otherworldly pall over the soundscapes, like curdled Mahler; the flute is a sinuous, folk-inflected voice. After an agitated second movement, the return of a luminous Sibelian wind chorale, now played by the soloist alone, forms a wistful coda. This is Romantic music in a non-showy, slow-burning vein, and the finest piece I have yet heard from this composer.

In contrast, Haukur Tómasson’s Second Flute Concerto is a more bracingly modernist work, in which Stravinskian blocks of sound rub against one another through five tightly-wound movements. The first alternates between mechanical activity and brittle stasis; the second makes use of gamelan-like pitched percussion, which give way to clanging gongs as the music becomes more animated. It’s a gnomic, intriguing work that repays repeated listening.

Christian Lindberg is best known as a trombone soloist, but has in recent years emerged as a composer as well. He is no mere dilettante either, with a substantial list of works and an engagingly direct style. The World of Montuagretta is a lightweight concerto or a substantial divertimento, a series of five impressionistic miniatures for a soloist equally as virtuoso and charismatic as Lindberg himself. The concerto recalls somewhat the spirit of old-fashioned ‘light music’, accessible, well-crafted and tuneful, though this is not to suggest any lack of depth; rather, there is much wit and invention. It provides a fitting end to a splendidly enjoyable disc.

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