Review of Flutes Play. The CD can be find on Amazon

Revista MUZICA Nr. 1 / 2016

Eva WienermNew York, NY, USA

Compact Disc Reviews: Flute Music of Violeta Dinescu



Flutes Play

Ion Bogdan Ştefănescu, flute

Gutingi 254 (2015)


The presentation of the cycle of works on the CD, Flutes Play, is reminiscent of the order of the works on the CD, Forgetmenot. Just as the six sections of Circuit alternate with other works, creating an integrated listening experience, all butone of the pieces of Flutes Play I – VI are presented in alternation with the interludes of the cycle, Walk among, Walk about, Walk away and Walk against. The titles of the interludes are indicative of a gradual progression from harmonious interaction of musical elements to conflict between opposing forces. Dinescu states: “The soli are go-betweens and serve the dramaturgical purpose of enabling the listener to perceive the ten pieces as a curve.” Dinescu takes the listener on an otherworldly journey into the emotional / intellectual realm of the

dream state. Flutes Play I-VI are scored as follows: I for three flutes, II for six, III for eight, IV for sixteen, V for twenty-four, and VI for thirty-two flutes. The complete cycle of ten works is based on the intervallic play among major and minor seconds and thirds, as well as perfect fourths. A major inspiration for these pieces is Javanese gamelan music, in which seconds and thirds predominate. Dinescu creates an ingenious soundscape through her expansion of the motivic material, employing counterpoint, stylized stretto, solo lines with accompaniment and chordal masses. As in Forgetmenot, microtonality and flute and vocal techniques play a prominent role. Dinescu’s use of registration is masterful. The music evokes visual images, its timbral colors ranging from muted hues to metallic brightness. Continuity within the cycle is often achieved through the introduction of shared thematic material at the beginning and/or end of different sections.

The CD opens with Flutes Play III (eight flutes). Dinescu presents a moderately paced motivic design, tinged with microtonality. Two concert flutes interact in an interweaving, dance-like counterpoint in their mid-to-high register. This music returns in the fourth and tenth pieces, Flutes Play I and VI, respectively. The spare texture is frequently punctuated by outbursts of loud runs and flurries of dissonant clusters, performed by the entire ensemble in the highest register of the instrument. In addition, the music includes twittering sounds and harmonics seemingly suspended in the air. Flutes Play III and the next piece, Flutes Play V, end with one of the main motifs of the cycle, an ascending minor third followed by a descending minor second that fades away with microtonal inflections.

Flutes Play V (twenty-four flutes) and the following interlude, Walk among for concert flute, begin with the same meditative line, tinged with Romanian embellishments. The music is played more vigorously in the former work, however. The splashes of bright colors in Flutes Play III develop into whizzing kaleidoscopic polyphonic and chordal masses in Flutes Play V. These masses collide with a solo flute line, played at a moderate pace, which continues to move in its own orbit. The flutes’ evocation of twittering birds recalls electronic music, yet never seems mechanical. The player as vocalist uses extended flute techniques to produce a rustling sound that calls to mind the timbre of a distant snare drum. Dinescu uses the element of surprise very effectively. In Walk among, for example, the composer presents the first interval of a quiet motif in the flute’s low range. It is immediately followed by a run that begins with mid- range vocal sounds and grows into a metallic splash of color in

the flute’s highest register.

Flutes Play I (three flutes) marks a turning point in the cycle, as its profile is markedly different from the preceding pieces. It has a more pensive mood than the works that lead up to it. Using the extended flute technique of singing into the instrument, the performer often doubles the concurrently played flute line, either in the same register or an octave below it. Dinescu employs the opposite ends of the registral palette, simultaneously and in alternation, giving prominent roles to the bass flute and piccolo. The piccolo writing is characterized by colorful virtuosic passages. The following piece, Walk about for solo piccolo, features bright sparkling lines and twittering harmonics.

Flutes Play IV (sixteen flutes) begins with muted tones in the bass flute and voice. Dinescu presents a polyphonic motivic design consisting of oscillating patterns. The music is faster-paced than that of the preceding pieces. As in Flutes Play V, runs and chordal masses played by the piccolos in their highest register collide with single and multiple flute lines. In this work, interactions between the parts occur more frequently. The return of the opening motif of Flutes Play III and I is one of many elements that unifies the cycle. The timbres that open Flutes Play IV immediately return in the next work, Walk away for bass flute. The most striking element of this short piece is Dinescu’s transformation of the performer’s voice from an instrument, humming and producing otherworldly sounds, into a human singing voice. The player sings along with the flute line, using the vocal syllable, “da,” on each pitch.

Flutes Play II (six flutes) resembles Flutes Play I in its slow pace and meditative flute lines. Dinescu introduces a new type of event that has its roots in Flutes Play V. The material that previously collided with a solo line, yet left it intact, now interrupts the line. The composer creates the effect of a musical conversation. In Walk against for concert flute, Dinescu presents a solo line that occasionally divides into two distinct elements, due to her assignment of contrasting dynamics to different registers. This enables a dialogue to take place, structurally linking this work with Flutes Play II.

Flutes Play VI (thirty-two flutes), the finale of the cycle, is a flute symphony with voice. Dinescu reintroduces all of the motivic designs and gestures from the previous nine works and presents one seemingly new element: clusters of seconds played inthe high register of the flutes that produce the pure sound of the flute stop of a Baroque organ. The composer creates a colorful, intricate polyphonic soundscape. Despite the wealth of aural information, the listener feels a sense of tranquility as the work concludes.


Ion Bogdan Ştefănescu’s performances are sensitive, deeply expressive and technically flawless. His control of timbral nuance is exquisite. The engineering of Forgetmenot is masterly, presenting the listener with a seemingly live acoustic. The sound engineers for Flutes Play, Stephan Schmidt (DLF) and Florin Tudor (Bucharest), do an impressive job. The overdubbing is imperceptible. One should note that in live performances by multiple flutists, beats occur among the parts. Dinescu’s use of overdubbing enables her to create a unique sound that combines electronic and acoustic elements. Her musical palette, so rich in both traditional and extended techniques, brings the listener into a highly variegated musical landscape.