SAY: "Istanbul Symphony." "Hezarfen" Concerto for Ney and Orchestra.
Barcu Karadag, ney; Borman Istanbul Philharmonic Orch/Gürer Aykal, cond./Orchestra of Nationaltheater Mannheim/Dan Ettinger, cond. (concerto)
NAÏVE V5315 (CD + DVD)
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SEREBRIER: Flute Concerto with Tango. IZARRA: Pitangus Sulphuratus. VINE: Pipe Dreams. GINASTERA: Impresions de la Puna
Sharon Bezaly, flute; Australian Chamber Orch/Richard Tognetti, cond.
BIS CD 1789 TT: 60:23
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SANTOS: Moppet. MOBLEY: Pleez, (Plez)/Pliz. GILLINGHAM: Concerto for Piano and Percussion Orchestra. NOON: Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 232
Ji Hun, piano/Percussion Ensemble/Robert McCormick, cond.
RAVELLO RR7862 TT: 60:15
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NORGARD: Fairy Tale Cantata "Will-O'-The-Wisps In Town." Out of the Cradle Endlessy Rocking (Wave Music)
Helene Gjerris, mezzo-soprano; Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen
DACAPO 8.226085 TT: 48:41 + DVD (25:00)
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Several years ago this site mentioned a fascinating DVD about the remarkable Turkish pianist Fazil Say (REVIEW). Now we have this intriguing disk of two major works of his, the "Istanbul Symphony" and a concerto for ney and orchestra called "Hezarfen." Istanbul is a half-hour work, a winner in every way. It symbolizes in a most imaginative way the life and culture of the city and the circle of life therein. The seven sections have titles: Nostalgia, Religious Order, Blue Mosque, Merrily clad young ladies aboard the ferry to the Princes' Islands, About the travelers to Anatolia departing from the Haydar Pasha train station, Oriental Night, and Finale. It begins and ends softly with gentle sounds suggesting ocean waves, and includes many exotic and often powerful sounds many of which are heavy on percussion. All of this has been vividly captured by the engineering team in this live recording made December 25, 2010 in Istanbul's Lütfi Kidar International Convention and Exhibition Center. Also featured is a live recording of the ney concerto made March 6, 2012, the world premiere in Rosengarten Mannheim, Germany. This featured an instrument called the ney, a reed flute which originated in Iran and often is used in Middle Eastern music. It produces a distinctive sound, rather like a lonely loon, and can be highly expressive. Say's four movement concerto for the instrument (Istanbul 1632, Galata Tower, The Flight, Algerian Exile) is subtitled Hezarfen, the first name of the Ottoman aviation pioneer Hezarfen Ahmet Celebri who in 1632 "flew" more than three kilometers with wings of his own construction. He leapt from the top of Galata Tower and his flight took about nine minutes. The third movement of Say's concerto depicts his flight in a most imaginative way. Burcu Karadag is listed as ney soloist in both the symphony and concerto. Both orchestras are first-rate and, as mentioned earlier, audio is display quality. A bonus is a DVD of the symphony, a documentary about the concerto, and the composer discussing his work. This is a terrific issue—don't miss it!

Israeli flutist Sharon Bezaly is recognized for her artistry and wide repertory; she is a major figure in the wind instrument world. Bezaly has made about 20 recordings for BIS, and here is her latest, four works one of which is dedicated to her, José Serebrier's Flute Concerto with Tango, composed in 2008. The tango is left unfinished but the concerto ends in virtuoso display. Adina Izarra, a major figure in Venezuela's music scene, wrote Pitangue sulphuratus (Great Kiskadee). This is a yellow and brown bird abundant in the Caracas valley; it has a brilliant array of songs, and Izarra's 14-minute fantasy is a showpiece for all concerned. BIS made an early recording of this work with Manuela Wiesler; on this disk we hear the revised version by Robert Bahr. Australian composer Carl Vine's Pipe Dreams has an idyllic center section but other wise focuses on virtuoso playing. The program ends with Ginastera's Impresiones de la Puna, his vivid score for flute and string quartet, his treatment of traditional folk melodies and instruments of his country. This is a superb disk in every; it seems odd that it wasn't issued on SACD—but the two-channel sound is just fine.

Interest flags considerably with the Ravello issue of music featuring percussion. The McCormick Percussion Group, in residence at the University of South Florida and conducted by Robert McCormick, plays over 80 instruments and does so brilliantly. However, music on this disk probably will appeal only to a small audience. We have two eight-minute pieces by Santos and Mobley followed by Gillingham's Concerto for Piano and Percussion Orchestra, and Noon's Piano Concerto No 3. The center movements of both concerti are the only respite from the clamor of often intriguing percussive effects, and if this is what you enjoy, here it is in performances that probably are definitive. Ji Hyun Kim plays the demanding solos in the concertos. I found the audio disappointing. The venue, Spring Theatre, is dry resulting in little impact and presence in low percussion. It's unfortunate this wasn't recorded multi-channel; it would have been effective for the listener to be surrounded by all that percussion.

Interest drops even more with the DaCapo Norgard set containing two works: Will-o'-the-Wisps in Town and Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking. This site previously mentioned recordings of Norgard's Seadrift, Nova Geniture, and Fons Laetifgis (REVIEW), The Divine Circus (REVIEW), Symphonies 3 and 7 (REVIEW), and an accordion concerto called Recall (REVIEW), all challenging for the listener. Norgard was commissioned to write a work based on Hans Christian Andersen's Will-o'-the-Wisps; he chose poet Suzanne Brogger to update and complete the work. The original version is scored for tenor, mezzo soprano, chorus and percussion. Later, Norgard made a version for mezzo soprano and five instrumentalists, and that is what we have on this CD. The story concerns an evil witch who brings a group of devilish spirits to seduce the villagers, and is told by the soprano who takes all parts, with assistance from the musicians who on occasion make appropriate sounds for the story. The CD also contains Norgard's instrumental setting of Walt Whitman's Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking, identified as a tribute to Hawaii, although surely one would never suspect this from listening to it. All performances surely can be considered definitive, but this is not music I'd wish to experience again. At no extra cost, a 25-minute DVD is included, a production of TV Glad in which the composer and librettist talk about the music and its meaning. Approach with caution.

R.E.B. (March 2013)