Rouse: Flute Concerto

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WORKS: Flute Concerto; Symphony No. 2; Rapture
PERFORMER: Sharon Bezaly (flute); Royal Stockholm PO/Alan Gilbert


The American composer Christopher Rouse has built an international reputation on a string of striking orchestral and concertante works in an intense, angsty, post-modernist idiom, and the pieces on these two discs are an impressive summation of his gifts.

Symphony No. 2, though conceived at the same time as the First, was not committed to paper until 1994, by which time its central slow movement had acquired a deep expressive focus as a memorial to Rouse’s friend the composer Stephen Albert. For all its Shostakovich-style overtones this profoundly eloquent music is perhaps the most impressive track on either disc.

A sense of tragedy, though expressed in very different ways, is also present in the 1993 Flute Concerto, partly inspired by the horrific murder of the British toddler James Bulger (which gives rise to the central elegy around which the five movements are disposed) and poignantly alluding to various kinds of Celtic folk and popular music. Sharon Bezaly is a superb soloist, finding a more intimate quality of lyricism than does the original soloist Carol Wincenc on her Telarc disc. 


The 2000 orchestral piece Rapture has an altogether greater warmth than most of the other works and its long, ecstatic melodic lines are as redolent of Tippett as its majestic onward flow and final sunrise evoke Sibelius in contemporary guise. Calum MacDonald