subtitle ("Pan in Pieces") of this selection of works for
solo flute fairly sums up the basic idea running throughout the recital:.
a varied collection of pieces evoking Pan, in one way or another. It
appropriately opens with Debussy's celebrated Syrinx followed
by a very similar short work The Ecstatic Shepherd by the 'English
Debussy', i.e. Cyril Scott. (Incidentally, Scott's piece has
been recorded by Kenneth Smith several years ago [ASV CD DCA 739].)
Ary van Leeuwen was one of the foremost flute virtuosi of his time.
hired by Mahler and went on to become principal flautist with the Cincinnati
Symphony Orchestra under Sir Eugene Goossens. The challenge of his
Lament is, so we are told, to give linear coherence to a score that
at first sight looks rather like a patchwork of fragmentary ideas.
Le joueur de flûte berce les ruines is a real novelty, though
not one to greatly shatter our appreciation of his output. This tiny
was composed in 1942 probably as a gift to a friend (we are not told),
was lost for many years and consequently never mentioned in any worklist.
It surfaced as recently as 1997. The very detailed notes by Bradley
Wilber accompanying this release mention that DeLaney's lovely Hymn
Pan was inspired by Shelley's eponymous poem. The French composer
Roger Bourdin, trained and active as a flautist, is rather better-known
for short idiomatic pieces for flute, of which Chanson de Pan and Pan
blessé are I think good examples. These pieces may
be fairly well-known by flautists, but less so by music lovers, so
that their inclusion here is most welcome.
All the pieces in the second half of the present recital are fairly recent,
including several works written as recently as 2003. Need I say that
all the composers, but one, were unknown to me? Benjamin Boone's
The Wood Nymph of Nonacris composed in 1989, Mark Hijleh's Syrinx,
Too as well as Binnette Lipper's Flute Flight are all overtly
inspired by Debussy's Syrinx, viewed or, rather, heard through
slightly more modern techniques. They use more advanced playing techniques
such as lip bend and Flatterzung, always tastefully and discretely
so. Russian-born Margarita Zelenaia's Pan's Pastoral for
a Shepherd has a delightful, folk-like ring à la Bartók.
Pan(ic) by Gene Pritsker might call Birtwistle's saxophone concerto
to mind, but is nothing like as controversial as that piece. It nevertheless
displays a good deal of energy and is again quite idiomatically written.
David Golightly's Three Pan Love Songs are also beautifully written,
although they may be more complex, technically speaking, but nonetheless
very attractive. This short triptych is not unlike Golightly's
much earlier, quite substantial work for solo clarinet Moods (1980),
available on ASC CS CD2. Incidentally, at about 6 minutes, this is
the longest work here. The young French composer Pierre Thilloy, whose
name is also new to me, is represented here by yet another beautiful
miniature Le Rêve de Pan.
By the way, there a last track Woodland Sounds by Dave Sluberski which
simply rounds this recital off with some recorded nature sounds.
As already hinted at in the above, all the pieces in this recital are
fairly short, and most of them are similar, in spirit and letter. I can
imagine this selection being too much of a good thing for some tastes.
If so, then, the best way to enjoy it is to hear it in bits, a few pieces
at a time. However, there is enough variety in the composers' approach
to the Pan myth to avoid any monotony. Anyway, Nina Assimakopoulos plays
beautifully throughout and her superb readings are beautifully recorded.
This release as a whole is excessively well produced with detailed notes
that tell you anything you want to know about the pieces and their composers.
It is adorned with a beautiful, Pre-Raphaelite-looking photograph of
Nina. The only reservation I have to express concerns the shamefully
short playing time. But this small point apart, this is a most enjoyable