This two-disc set is a literal breath of fresh for flute devotees of all stripes. In this instance, Rune Most has opted to employ the Howell Roberts wooden flute: perhaps not as robust and searing as its silver counterpart, but in these capable hands there is little to quibble about.
No. 1, the vrai flute concerto (No.2 beginning life for the oboe) lifts off with a somewhat deliberate, rather than “cheerful” tempo from conductor Scott Yoo, but once Most takes stage, his light, airy hues are as welcome as drought-ending rain. The accompaniment from Yoo and the Odense Symphony Orchestra has occasional looseness that such razor-sharp conductors as George Szell and the—then mighty Cleveland Orchestra—would never tolerate.
For his part, Most displays an impressive mastery of change of register, breath control and tonal flexibility, the likes of which the commissioner, Willem van Britten DeJong, could only envy. The flautist’s cadenza (penning all for the two flute concerti) is inventive and thoughtful with a couple welcome surprises. The return is just adequate.
In the “Adagio non troppo,” better adherence to the adjective would have helped. Nonetheless, the movement oozes fine artistry and soothing aura with delectable orchestra flutes and horns adding much to the overall palette. This cadenza—at once wistful, searching—suffers a wee bit of a bump on the return.
The finale is easily the best of the bunch with an ideal tempo and much-welcome dryness, along with just “saucy enough” grace notes. As would be the case whenever called upon, the oboes were superb.
The second concerto (now wrapped in flute clothing), begins a touch slow (which the double-reed version may have preferred) and needs much more horizontal rather than vertical direction from Yoo and his charges to keep the engine moving steadily forward. However, once things are underway, there is a compelling jauntiness to the mix. Here, the initial cadenza offers a full range and variety in the mode and articulation departments.
The ensuing “Adagio ma non troppo” would benefit if the entire violin section could speak as one. A veritable highlight was the cadenza where Most crafted and delivered his most intimate and personal reflections of either work.
As with No. 1, the finale again proved to be the best of the bunch: happiness and joy for all. Do savour it all.
This performance of Concerto for Flute and Harp can best be summed up in two words: entre amis! The tempi are uniformly amiable with no attempt to create any heavy drama where virtually none exists. The one disappointment in that regard comes as Yoo opts to relax the forward motion in the c-minor episode of the closing “Rondo.” Better to let Mozart speak for himself.
Harpist Sivan Magen is most certainly cut from the same phrasing and interplay cloth as Most; the pair readily complementing each other or taking stage as required. Robert D. Leven’s three cadenzas are expertly balanced, allowing both soloists to shine and blend at will. Whenever listeners are in the mood for a half hour of pleasant, civilized conversation, look no further than here.
The delectable icing on this artistic cake comes in the slight (be ye not deceived: nothing “small” about this movement) form of an orphaned “Andante.” Papa Haydn’s horn calls and expert use of silence can be heard and felt; the harmonic excursions are both seamlessly rendered and understood by Most, along with conductor Benjamin Schwarz, who also elicits more warmth from the Odense Symphony Orchestra than yet realized on this collection. Alas, the outer movements of what could well have been the commissioned third flute concerto can—frustratingly—only be imagined in mind’s eye. And so we must be thankful for what we have and ever entertain the notion of putting artificial intelligence to work in the service of singular genius. JWR