Bezaly and Ashkenazy perform Fauré, Franck and Prokofiev

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COMPOSERS: Fauré,Franck,Prokofiev
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Fauré * Franck * Prokofiev
WORKS: Fauré Violin Sonata No. 1 (arr. Bezaly); Franck Violin Sonata (arr. Rampal); Prokofiev Flute Sonata in D
PERFORMER: Sharon Bezaly (flute), Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS 2259 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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Sharon Bezaly dominates the tiny, rarefied space afforded to full-time solo flautists – and this disc demonstrates why: the Swedish-based Israeli has phenomenal strength and versatility, combined with crystalline clarity of sound. Her 24-carat gold, custom-built Muramatsu flute is reminiscent of James Galway, but this is not a marketing fad; the luxurious sound is partly attributable to the glorious instrument.

The Prokofiev Sonata, inspired by the flute playing of Georges Barrère, is notorious among the flute community for its challenging and rarely used top D. Naturally, this note – and the rest – cause no issues for Bezaly, who swoops through the movements with incredible power. It’s virtually impossible to imagine that, when the work was premiered in 1943, it was criticised for its meandering solo part, which the composer quickly re-gifted to violinist David Oistrakh. Happily, by the time Galway and Martha Argerich recorded the piece in 1975, the work had been returned to the flautists; Bezaly’s cleaner lines on this new version are preferable.

In a neat twist of irony, this disc pairs the Prokofiev with transcriptions of two violin sonatas, both, curiously, in A major. Franck’s Sonata, originally written for Eugene Ysaÿe, begins with restrained, plaintive melodies, before moving into complex canonical writing for both flute and piano, performed here by the dazzling Vladimir Ashkenazy. Bezaly begins the Fauré – her own transcription – at a trot, never a step out of pace with her pianist. The later movements are a boisterous chromatic canter.

Claire Jackson