WFP Sharon Bezaly concert review

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Fiery flutist sets off musical pyrotechnics with MCO

ISRAELI-BORN flutist Sharon Bezaly blew into town Wednesday night with her gorgeous 24-karat gold-plated instrument in tow and a three-pack of eclectic fare that showcased her renowned artistry.

The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra concert, led by Anne Manson, was Bezaly’s Winnipeg debut.

Bezaly first debuted with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 14 under the baton of Zubin Mehta. She now circles the globe year round, performing with all the world’s major orchestras, winning accolades for her impressive virtuosity and her unflagging support of contemporary composers.

Uruguay’s José Serebrier is one of those. His Flute Concerto with Tango was featured on her 2012 album Pipe Dreams and recorded with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. The five-movement work teemed with textural colour and life Wednesday, with the soloist immediately attacking the opening quasi presto’s tightly-knit, angular rhythms and quicksilver runs punctuated by the strings’ pizzicati.

Next up came the Cadenza: Andante rubato with its palette of extended techniques including flutter and double-tonguing effects juxtaposed with lyrical sweeps of sound. The Fantasia — with Bezaly on alto flute — proved the most virtuosic with Manson keeping a taut rein on the players throughout the improvisatory-style, rhapsodic movement.

Tango inconclusivo unfolded like a postmodern novella; vestiges of romanticism against rasping celli with hints of melody woven into the orchestra textures. Its trailing off into the ether was suddenly broken by the fiery finale Allegro comodo, which had the soloist navigating its cascading runs and constantly shifting meters with aplomb.

Bezaly also tossed off Vivaldi’s Flute Concerto in G Minor (RV 439), La Notte, with each of its six, short movements its own perfectly crafted miniature jewel. Bezaly infused each section with a sense of drama, crisply attacking its ghostly Presto (Fantasmi) while seeming to suspend time itself during the Largo (Il sono). The gifted musician is renowned for her perfectly controlled circular breathing; it appeared she took nary a single breath of air throughout the penultimate movement, which evoked the hush of night.

The third piece, Alberto Ginastera’s Impresiones de la Puna garnered the most applause for its folksy charm with its spiky Danza being a particular standout. After receiving an enthusiastic standing ovation, Bezaly treated the crowd of 695 to an encore: Hugo Alfven’s Little Suite — a sizzling, all guns blazing solo that finally released her full arsenal of flute pyrotechnics, including an arresting use of multiphonics.

The program also included Haydn’s Symphony No. 31, in D Major, nicknamed by the composer himself as the ‘Horn Signal.’ With gleaming horns in hand, a quartet comprised of Ken MacDonald, Caroline Oberheu, Michiko Singh and Anna Millan took turns performing solos, duos or en masse, with principal player MacDonald particularly shining during his high-reaching passages.

The good-natured work also highlighted individual musicians in the orchestra — albeit some struggling with intonation — including one of the MCO’s hardest-working backbenchers, principal bassist Meredith Johnson, whose solo became a joy to behold during the finale’s theme and variations.

 

Winnipeg Free Press, 28 November 2014
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Westminster United Church
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Attendance: 695
4 stars out of 5