Vladimir Ashkenazy and Flint Juventino Beppe.
Credits: News on Request AS
Who would have known that this winter day in January 2008
would turn out to
be a milestone in an already overwhelming life?
Well, first a few words about the project itself.
Recording several new orchestral
works within a strict time limit with the
acclaimed pianist and conductor Vladimir
Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra of London
was thrilling and, for me,
unpredictable. I had never heard any of the works
performed beforehand, except
one, nor had I in fact even tested the sheet
music with an orchestra. Having said
this I should add that I have never to this
day been surprised by how the music
sounds live, after writing down the notes in saunas,
nature or wherever
appropriate. So this in itself was not really a
big issue for these two days when we
were planning to record a full-length album with five
FJB works for large symphony
The only one of these works that I had previously
heard live was «Flute Mystery»
Op.66a, the alto flute version,
which is dedicated to flautist Sir James Galway, who
gave the first performance, playing in Washington DC in
2006 with the National
Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin.
On this album it is the version
of «Flute Mystery» for C flute, Op.66b, that is performed.
It is one of life's many mysteries that some people don't
seem to need frequent
communication in order to reach an artistic understanding.
Soon after my very first
contact with Ashkenazy back when I was 17, he became
a kind of musical father
figure to me, supporting me with his integrity.
I was, and still feel I am, very
connected to his "third eye", which adds a unique
charisma to his performances. So
I felt honoured being able to collaborate with
such a pre-eminent musician.
Catherine Beynon and Flint Juventino Beppe. Credits: Morten-Lindberg
The first day, the sessions went very well, laying down
recordings of «Flute
Mystery» Op.66b and «Flute Concerto No.1» Op.70, which I would
describe as authentic, being made in the presence of
the composer, and by a
conductor who knows the composer very well, top-level
musicians and the multi
award-winning record label 2L, who are merciless
on the subject of sound quality,
but at the same time innovative when it comes to how
we experience 3-
The orchestra was placed in a full circle surrounding the conductor, prepared by
producer Morten Lindberg in order to
ensure that the balance in the sheet music
could meet the audience in a specified,
tailor-made audio landscape. All of these
details were based on 2L's production experience, and both orchestra and
conductor took the unusual instrument placement as a positive challenge. The
master idea was that instead of hearing an orchestra playing in front of you, the
music would now “embrace” the listener.
The flautist Emily Beynon, principal flautist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
of Amsterdam, and her sister, harpist Catherine Beynon, were soloists. The
Philharmonia Orchestra — an incredible ensemble with its own distinctive sound,
which I have enjoyed on several albums the last decades — were the other human
resources involved in the project. All together, the first day became a solemn
moment for me as composer, being present at the recording sessions with such
However, at the end of day 1, I received a
totally unexpected message. On my way
back to my hotel, Ashkenazy's wife called
me and told me that the maestro had
suddenly been taken ill with fever,
and that he therefore could not attend the
second and last day of the recording sessions.
The first thing I thought of was, of
course, Ashkenazy´s condition. I was terrified
that the illness might be serious.
Then my thoughts turned to our project, which now faced
a crisis. In such
situations the brain works intensely to find a way out.
We didn't have much time —
neither did we have a backup solution.
No other conductor was ready to step in.
We only had the next day to finish the recording sessions. We were, it seemed,
Vladimir Ashkenazy told me, via his wife, that he saw me as the first option to
conduct on day 2. I almost lost my senses. Me? I had never conducted so much as a
small symphony orchestra before — or any sized orchestra, for that matter. What
was worse, in social matters I am not particularly outgoing; I am not good at doing
things on the fly. And in this project, we had available the Philharmonia Orchestra
one of the world's greatest orchestras, one of my personal treasures since my
childhood. A lot was at stake here.
Immediately, I felt horrified about the responsibility, but gradually this feeling
changed into euphoria. Producer Morten Lindberg backed up Ashkenazy's
suggestion. We sat in the taxi late at night. The producer and I made the decision
together: I had to do the conducting myself. Not only because no one else could
take over, but also because deep inside of me there is a perfectionist and,
moreover, I had an intimate knowledge of the works we were to perform.
Furthermore, the fact that Ashkenazy personally suggested me meant a lot.
But, moving my body and arms is not part of my natural physical way of expressing
myself. How should I even conduct 3/4 time — a waltz?