After appearances at National Flute Association and James Galway conferences and at such venues as the Kenneday Center and London’s Wigmore Hall, flutist Burak Besir is building a solid reputation as a soloist and composer. Now he has issued his first recording. With the assistance of flutist Jim Walker and pianist Sonya Belousova, it is a sparkling debut, even though Besir has intentionally presented only one or two facets of his art.
Given his background, Besir’s range of interests is not surprising. Originally from Cyprus, but conservatory trained in Ankara, Edinburgh and Boston, and after orchestral stints in Istanbul, Boston and Los Angeles, one would expect virtuoso technical skills and an eclectic repertoire. The first of these is certainly on display here, as Besir romps through a wide-ranging program, but it is the repertoire itself that sets this recording apart for me.
Besir’s panache is evident in the first few notes as he bursts into our awareness with Jacob Gade’s Tango Fantasia. As the album title suggests, Besir has decided to let his passion guide his programming. So it is that he eschews Dick, Berio and extended techniques in favor of high drama and, yes, brilliant fantasies. The Tango is followed by François Borne’s piece of that name, with Jim Walker as the second flute, and then by the studied exoticism of Piazzolla — twice, Oblivion and Histoire du Tango — separated by a lovely aria from Eugene Onegin that demonstrates Tchaikovsky’s gift for melodic writing and a tango ballad, with Walker on alto flute, that demonstrates Carlos Gardel’s gift for dramatic phrasing . Besir now evokes the spirit of the flute through the figure of Pan as rendered by Jules Mouquet, thus combining mythology and virtuosity along with the nymphs and shepherds — and birds.
Jim Walker steps in again to share the spotlight in Besir’s own composition Sound from Anatolia. Besir sums it up “. . . rich and diverse masterpieces from the flute ranging from elegant tangos to opera to sounds and melodies from the part of the world where I was born.”
By all reports, electing this repertoire t was not an easy process for Besir. In fact, he delayed producing his debut recording for two or three years while he considered his choices. With his range of interests, which includes a lot of world music, including performance skills on non-Western instruments (as can seen below), along with the classical repertoire that he loves equally, his palette is broad indeed. His choices here are well-balanced, however, with just enough world music creeping in, from Argentina and Anatolia. It will be interesting to see how broad a brush Besir will wield on his next recording. Now that it his debut is here it is a breath of fresh air.
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