“Mirror of Eternity” = ARAM KHATCHATURIAN: Flute Concerto; HOUTAF KHOURY: Mirror of Eternity; YEVHEN STANKOVYCH: Chamber Symphony No. 3 – Wissam Boustany, flute/National Sym. Orch. of Ukraine/Volodymyr Sirenko – Nimbus Records NI 6168 (Distr. by Allegro), 79:47 ****:

Flutist Wissam Boustany is not only a wonderful performer but, clearly, a passionate promoter of composers from his homeland. His remarks in the booklet notes to this collection are passionate and speak of the beauty and “endless possibility” that musical expression offers, even emanating from cultures that have had a tough existence (such as those in the representative Armenia, Lebanon and Ukraine).
The selections are all very interesting and certainly pique the interest for more from these relatively obscure sources. Certainly, the “name” composer here is Khatchaturian, known chiefly for his ballet scores like Gayane or Spartacus and, somewhat, for his symphonies and concertos. I had not heard his Flute Concerto before but found it to be a real pleasure. Actually written first as a violin concerto for David Oistrakh; the great French flute virtuoso, Jean-Pierre Rampal asked Khatchaturian to write a flute transcription of the work. It is a standard three movement work chock full of some of the trademark spiky rhythms and percussion effects and plaintive melodies that permeate the composer’s other works. In certain moments, it resembles Khatchaturian’s Piano Concerto with a strange and very “Armenian” soulfulness, particularly the middle Andante sostenuto.  Boustany’s performance really is excellent and he has a marvelous tone and ample technique.
Hotaf Khoury is a Lebanese composer from Tripoli, but who has some ties to the Ukraine. He studied with Yury Ishenko at the National Academy of Music, Ukraine, and has subsequently taught as Ishenko’s assistant and, later, at the National Conservatory in Beirut. Khoury’s Mirror of Eternity is a concerto for flute and orchestra and makes a strong, atmospheric impression!  The opening Molto lento sounds mournful and plaintive. The flute line, throughout, is frequently doubled by other winds and is given melodies that have a melismatic quality that makes the flute resemble a mey or duduk in spots. The composer notes that the intensity of the opening movement is designed to represent a “desolate figure living in the middle of a society in denial.” The central movement conjures imagery of middle eastern cabarets and taverns while the closing Largo suggests the man (symbolized by the flutist) “retreating toward the depressed banality of his life.” Such depressing symbolism aside, this is a very interesting and compelling work, written for the present performer, Wissam Boustany.
This collection closes with the Chamber Symphony No. 3 by Yevhen Stankovych. Stankovych was born in Ukraine and studied composition with Adam Soltys at the L’viv Mykola Lysenko Conservatoire, later with Boris Lyatoshynsky and Myroslav Skoryk at the Kiev Conservatory. He has been working as a professor of composition in the National Music Academy of Ukraine, since 1998. The Chamber Symphony No. 3 is a relatively compact work in three movements that also serves as a flute concerto, of sorts. All of these works are written in a tonal but urgent style, including the Stankovych. There are certainly some wonderfully technical passages that showcase the flute throughout. This work, too, has a rather dark, emotional quality to it. As the composer’s own notes indicate there is a pervasive sense of “foreboding, darkness and despair interspersed by sudden moments of visionary peace.”  More importantly, this, too, is a very interesting work that has moments of great beauty (as the composer indicates.)
Boustany’s annotated remarks as well as the quotes from the composers involved may lead to the conclusion that this music is pretty grim and would make for depressing listening. Clearly, there is a strong emotional feel to all these works and which echoes Boustany’s own “Toward Humanity” project which uses music and musical performances to support humanitarian projects. However, even without knowing the mood or intent behind these compositions, this is extremely interesting and compelling music played beautifully.
—Daniel Coombs