Don’t judge this CD by its cover. No doubt the packaging went through a rigorous design process by expert minimalists, but somehow the portrait of virtuoso Israeli-Swedish flautist Sharon Bezaly, who recorded this disc of largely contemporary repertoire during her 2009 Australian tour with the ACO, still looks like a bad Polaroid, with the shadows left in and a random font or two slapped on as an afterthought.

BIS certainly can’t have been relying on the familiarity or commercial appeal of the composer names to compensate. Ultimately, this CD featuring the most famous golden flute since James Galway’s and music by José Serebrier, Adina Izarra, Carl Vine and Ginastera, has just two things going for it – the quality of the South American/Australian music and the excellence of the performances.

As she’s demonstrated on many previous recordings for BIS, Bezaly is an incredible flautist – fearless and truly an “attacking” player when it comes to the technically challenging bits – so she’s always exciting to listen to. And some of the repertoire here, largely unknown though it is, is terrific.

Serebrier was once a long-serving conductor on the ABC orchestral network and he remains a prodigious recording artist, but judging by the concerto that he dedicated to Bezaly in 2008, he’s also a composer of real skill. Using the rhythms of his native South America, Serebrier’s Flute Concerto with Tango sparkles as an opener; a really exciting work that hopefully may find its way onto Young Performers’ Award advanced rounds as an alternative to endless repetitions of the Nielsen concerto.

But for the general listener, other parts of this CD are easier to admire than to love. 

Pitangus Sulphuratus by Venezualan composer Adina Izarra sounds as forbidding as its title, a situation not helped by the coldness of recorded sound that characterises the entire disc. Carl Vine’s Pipe Dreams fares better in the frosty audio mix, a work of energy and invention that makes you really miss the warm lower and mid-tones that might normally be expected on a disc featuring such experienced recording artists.

At the end, Ginastera’s enchanting Impresiones de la Puna offers time for reflection and a moment to be dazzled not just by the virtuosity of the playing, but by the charm of the music itself. These three gorgeous vignettes deserve repeated airplay, and offer a fitting conclusion to a CD that ultimately amounts to more than the sum of its parts. 

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