Brandon George’s Solo CD

cover PH18039

J.S. BACH: Partita in A min. for Solo Flute, BWV 1013. BOULEZ: Sonatine.* AHO: Solo iii. PROKOFIEV: Sonata for Flute & Piano+ / Brandon Patrick George, fl; *Steven Beck, +Jacob Greenberg, pno / Profil/Hänssler PH18039

Brandon Patrick George, flautist of the chamber group Imani Winds, has also performed as a soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and others. So far as I can tell, this is his solo recording debut.

Probably due in part to his association with the Imani Winds, which plays a lot of contemporary music, George has included two very modern works on this CD, one by Pierre Boulez and the other by Kalevi Aho, but starts out with J.S. Bach’s Partita for solo flute. He has a wonderful tone but, at least in this piece, he took too many breaths for my taste. Artistic choice, or just a bad day? Hard to tell, but either way it mars an otherwise fine performance. He’s a bit better in the “Courante,” but still, a few breaths too many.

Yet George is absolutely superb in Boulez’ strange and demanding flute Sonatine, producing buzz effects on his instrument as the pianist accompanies him with 12-tone tickling. It almost comes as a shock to the system after the Bach piece, but I enjoy juxtapositions like this. What I particularly liked about this performance was the complete emotional commitment that George brought to the music.

Kalevi Aho’s Solo iii is a strange little piece for solo flute, using falling chromatics and microtonal slurs. It also sticks pretty much to the middle and lower range of the instrument, which produces the most haunting sound. It is in two parts, marked quarter note=66 and “Presto,” the latter being a series of rapid eighth-note motifs linked together which continually rise in pitch as the piece develops.

It’s almost hard to believe that, at one time, the Prokofiev Flute Sonata was considered “modern” music; its gentle harmonic left turns sound positively old-fashioned after Boulez and Aho; but George plays it with a good style and rhythmic swagger.

On balance, a good solo outing for this very gifted performer, showing his versatility in several different styles. I just wish he had re-recorded the Bach Partita with better breath control.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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