FRANCK; FAURÉ; PROKOFIEV Sonatas for Flute and Piano
Instrumental soloists have long coveted sonatas and concertos for other instruments. Flautist Sharon Bezaly’s new disc contains three sonatas, two of which have been purloined from the violin repertoire. César Franck’s Violin Sonata was transcribed by the great French flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal, while Bezaly herself is responsible for the arrangement of Gabriel Fauré’s A major Sonata. The third sonata on the disc – by Prokofiev – was originally for flute but is now arguably better known in the composer’s own violin incarnation, prepared with the help of David Oistrakh.
I’m not completely convinced that either the Franck or the Fauré works in transcription. Rampal’s arrangement of Franck’s score has to raise many phrases an octave because the flute cannot plumb to a G, while double-stopped notes cannot be replicated, minimising impact. Balance problems are created in both because, at fortissimo, the flute just cannot dominate the piano the same way a solo violin can. Bezaly’s pianist is none other than Vladimir Ashkenazy, who is ever sensitive but is noticeably placed towards the background to disguise the mismatch.
Bezaly’s playing is attractive, strong in alt, with quicksilver precision and a fabulous trill to close the second movement of the Franck Sonata. Her dusky tone and pastel colours suit the beautiful Allegretto poco mosso finale, although some of the movement’s bittersweet quality is lost on the flute. I prefer her recording to James Galway’s, though, who forces his tone and applies ungainly vibrato. In the Fauré, the inner movements work best, with the flowing 9/8 Andante most persuasive while the cheeky avian quality of the flute brings off the Allegro vivo movement delightfully, with tongued pizzicato and key-slap effects.
The Prokofiev sonata – unsurprisingly – comes off best. Bezaly displays precise staccato and nails top notes, her upwards chromatic runs in the boisterous Scherzo joyously vaulted. Her tone isn’t as lustrous as Emmanuel Pahud’s but she captures the sincerity of the Andante just as well. The high-spirited finale is suitably exuberant.