When contemplating the baroque period in French music in connection with the flute, it would probably be names such as Hotteterre, Blavet or Mondonville which would first come to mind. Joseph Bodin de Boismortier was something of a mass-market composer whose many works served as much to earn his keep as to supply the amateur music market with fairly playable pieces. But his six sonatas (opus 91), although in many ways conventional, do require some very good playing from both performers and are distinguished by having the harpsichord part fully notated.
The recordings on Sweden's BIS label by Israeli-born flutist Sharon Bezaly have exposed a great deal of neglected and often highly virtuosic repertory, much of its brought within reach by Bezaly's unusual circular breathing technique. She's a remarkable flutist, but it's her repertory selection that really sets her apart from the crowd. She actually throws in some chestnuts, like Cécile Chaminade's Concertino for flute and orchestra, Op. 107, this time around, but the highlight is a really nifty and unknown little work: the Flute Concert in D major, Op. 283, of Carl Reinecke, composed in 1908. Its three movements reduce Wagnerian language to a compact concerto in all kinds of ingenious ways. Sample the first movement, where the flute provides a charming pastoral element against a varying backdrop. The other works are each characteristic of their composer, even including the very early Largo and Allegro for flute and strings of Tchaikovsky.
During the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) a broad diffusion of Western music flowed into Japan, first in the form of military band music and. later, Protestant hymns. By 1900, recitals of piano, violin and song were quite popular. Composers like Prokofiev, and performers such as Heifetz, Kreisler and Segovia also encouraged this musical direction, which strongly followed German Romanticism and French Impressionism. The new Western repertoire found a place with the traditional Japanese music, hdgaku, and as the two traditions came in contact, a new and unique form of music emerged. One of the most fascinating developments in Japanese music was the introduction of new instruments in the south of Japan, and their metamorphosis as they migrated north via Kyoto and Tokyo. Several composers on this disc have focused on natural themes, with water being a favourite and obvious choice. The works have been chosen to give a sampling of the diversity of Japanese music, from the beautiful, traditional folk-songs to the complex and challenging multi-movement works, many of which evoke the traditional instruments, namely shakuhachi and koto.
The instrumental fantasy on a popular theme is probably almost as old as music itself. In the 19th century, this type of fantasy was a staple in the repertoire of soloists, who would compose these made-to-measure show pieces to display their talents in the best light. One surefire way to attract audiences was to program fantasies on themes from famous operas, which is just how Similia presents this delightful program of arrangements for flute and guitar.