Catching up with a backlog of listening. Listened to the two flute concertos and will definitely return to them. The Dalbavie I heard half of the other day before being interrupted and I hadn't been too impressed with what I heard. However, I warmed to it more second time around, not least because I was pleasantly surprised by how much had sunk in on first hearing. OK, it's hardly cutting edge, but what it does it does with style and economy, verging on the budget-priced at times! Influences - Dutilleux, of course (the constant return to a single pitch, as well as the lower strings music - something I noticed with the first of this year's Dusapin pieces the other week too), but also Lutosławski (the very opening - abrupt chords with scampering in between - struck me as something that Luto would have done with greater energy and creativity; this wounded like the right gestures but with weak notes), Kurtag - the 'depth charge' chords/orchestration reminded me of his wonderful piece Stele - and elsewhere early (Firebird/Petrushka) Stravinsky, Walton (Viola Concerto - some of the melodic shapes, stretching over augmented octaves), Sibelius (5th Symphony in particular - quiet, background scurrying, reminding me again of Walton - 1st Symphony - and Lutosławski). There was something passacaglia-like about the slow theme that ran through the work, and it helped focus what otherwise might have been an exercise in colour. I wished there had been more rhythmic interest in that theme, however; the quasi-baroque gestures got a bit tiresome after a while.
Am I the only one who detected a bit of scrappiness in Pahud's playing? Some very audible breaths (gulps) and high playing that sounded on the edge of losing support at times. The Carter seemed much more assured and the playing here was often stunningly beautiful and varied.
The Carter is a much tougher listen and I found myself having two simultaneous reactions - (1) the culturally conditioned response, tougher = better (than Dalbavie); (2) the equally subjective but perhaps more authentic response, tougher = less rewarding. Maybe I should have listened to them the other way round. I noted the delicate Webern/ late Stravinsky soundworld; the way Carter excavates more of interest from his opening bars than Dalbavie manages in the same space of time; but it wasn't until halfway through, with that extraordinary still music - what wonderful chords! - that my attention was really grasped. First time through, though, I was surprised by the ending - it seemed to come several minutes too soon - maybe I'll understand better why on subsequent hearings.
I'm not sure that two flute concertos in the same programme really works, even sonically gorgeous works like these. BBC NOW sounding great - just a few thin high string lines, but lots of finesse elsewhere. (Pleasantly surprised, having heard the same team's Les biches the other day - I thought that was quite crude, both in playing and interpretation - no match for Prêtre or Frémaux in this repertoire.)
I'm surprised about your comments, Roslynmuse, about Les Biches. Having heard excerpts from Fischer's recording, even at a sonically disadvantageous 320 kbps/mp3, it holds up well against the Pretre/Philharmonia, indeed has a warmer and more intimate sound overall. I couldn't detect crudity in the playing, it seemed both tender & sensitive (and the rare choral parts well-sung). If there is an earlier Pretre/Paris Orchestra reading, that might have more local colour and texture, (which one were you referring to?). I used to have (and love) the Fremaux LP, but haven't heard it for ages...
With the Carter, why should "tougher=less rewarding" be a "more authentic" response? Surely that response would be the MOST "culturally conditioned", conventional one of all... Your description of the Carter seems to suggest your enjoyment of it - trust yourself! I too felt it ended too soon, but only because I really wanted it to continue. So later I played the Boston Concerto to quell my thirst. Let's not demand epics from a 99-year old, but Carter's always been pretty concise.
In any case, aren't most musical masterpieces (or even just very good pieces) a bit tough on first or second hearing? It's an obvious point but we all recall how harsh and dismissive contemporary reaction was to Beethoven, Bruckner, Mahler etc... but there was time and space for their later reappraisal - perhaps that doesn't exist now? Take a random example, Max. Davies' Worldes Blis. Dramatic, powerful, highly original, first performance booed loudly (Proms 1969)... moving and memorable, all but forgotten now; who would dare to pick it up? (Only recording 1993).
There is an earlier Prêtre recording (IIRC it came with Dutilleux Le loup) but it was the Philharmonia one I was referring to (complete with chorus). The Frémaux (Suite only) was my introduction to the piece so it has a special place in my affections, as indeed does the whole piece; I just didn't get on with Fischer's tempi or phrasing, and some of the wind playing was a bit sour. Maybe I'll give it another go. (I preferred H K Gruber's BBC Phil performance last October.)
In retrospect, hearing the two concertos together was a mistake (for me, tonight) - I'll listen to the Carter again when I'm more fresh and hopefully my responses will be in alignment then! [I think I meant by 'more authentic' my gut feeling rather than an intellectual reasoning out. Conventional maybe - but changeable! ]
In one sense - and one sense only - PMD is lucky in that Worldes Blis has been recorded and is thus accessible for repeated listening (many other works and composers haven't even that faint light shining on them); how one goes about changing a situation in which rarely heard pieces (for large or complex/unusual forces) are actually performed is beyond me - where there's sufficient energy and interest (Brian Gothic) to bring it about it will happen but I sense corporate resistance standing in the way of brave artistic choices more and more now. But that's for another thread!