The Bulgarian Hristo Dobrinov has been principal flautist of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra since 2005. Besides his orchestral responsibilities, he has been busy as a pedagogue and solo recitalist. His recital at The Japanese Association on Sunday was a showcase of the richness of the Romantic flute repertoire, with an emphasis on the famous French school.
Philippe Gaubert's Nocturne & Allegro Scherzando hailed from the era of the Belle Epoque, when lyricism and sensuality of sound production were paramount. Dobrinov's clear and limpid tone was soothing to the ear, and his long lines charmed, before traipsing into the ensuing scherzo of elfin-winged lightness.
Similarly sinuous was the melodic line in Hungarian Erno Dohnanyi's Aria (Op. 48 No. 1), where its aural beauty came in tandem with an unusually syncopated piano accompaniment which modulated through a multitude of keys. This unseeming asymmetry added to the appeal of the piece.
The most modern work on the programme was Henri Dutilleux's Sonatine, with its three varied sections shrink-wrapped into a single continuous movement. Its chromaticism was alluring, teasing but never straying into atonality. Within its heart was a core of song-like beauty, which was fleeting at best before racing off into a kinetic and mercurial finish.
In Paul Taffanel's Fantasy On Der Freischutz, popular themes from Carl Maria von Weber's opera were spun through a mill of seemingly unplayable technical devices. This was fairly typical of the unabashed virtuosic French flute-maitres of the 19th and early 20th century, but Dobrinov more than coped with its physical exertions - he made it sound like good music.
The second half was devoted to one work, Richard Strauss' Sonata in E flat major (Op. 18), originally composed for violin. Because of their similar range, the parts of many violin and flute works are interchangeable. The secret here was to make one forget the absence of strings, and Dobrinov succeeded in his energetic account, aided by a big but pleasingly mellow tone.
The piano part in the outer movements is plethoric and arguably more difficult, but Malaysian pianist Loo Bang Hean provided excellent support despite encountering pedal problems on the Yamaha grand piano. This resulted in parts of the tender slow movement and the louder bits sounding overly percussive.
Nevertheless, true musicianship prevailed through these spells through to the heroically striding finale, which provided for a grandstand conclusion. As an encore, an unrehearsed Schumann Romance provided a balm to close a rewarding evening of fine music.