Adam Chamber Music Festival, Nelson

Flights of Fancy: music by Handel, Falla, Piazolla, Persichetti, De Castro Robinson, Grenfell, Andres, Fauré, Ravel, Ibert

Flight: Bridget Douglas (flute) and Carolyn Mills (harp)

Chanel Arts Centre, Motueka, Sunday 25 January

At 2pm a Family Concert entitled Animal Antics took place in the School of Music. It featured Carnival of the Animals and Poulenc’s Babar the Elephant, with accompaniment from four of New Zealand’s finest pianists – Michael Houstoun, Diedre Irons, Richard Mapp and Emma Sayers, and the narratives, Ogden Nash in the case of the Carnival, were spoken by Helen Moulder.

It clashed however with a concert at Motueka called Flights of Fancy, from Flight, the flute and harp duo of Bridget Douglas and Carolyn Mills: that’s what I chose. Reports of the Animals concert from those who’d been there made me regret being unable to spirit myself from Nelson to Motueka at 4pm.

Flights of Fancy met with a rather small audience, possibly because some people wonder if the two instruments can sustain their delight for two hours. The concert began with one of Handel’s flute sonatas, the harpsichord part nicely transferred to the harp.

The balance of the concert was slightly skewed however because an arm injury that has afflicted Carolyn Mills, stopped her playing one of the De Falla pieces, a piece by American, John Thomas, as well as Bach’s Flute Sonata in C. The rest of the programme consisted of fairly recent music, both New Zealand and foreign, plus a final set of three happy and familiar French pieces that left the audience content.

The unfamiliar pieces were chosen with a certain flair. Eve de Castro-Robinson’s Pearls of the Sea called for the novel sound of the bass flute, and for a variety of unorthodox sounds – glissandi, tapping the harp’s soundboard and the keys of the flute. Four Pooh Stories came from a second New Zealand composer, Maria Grenfell, again creating an original sound world that was often droll and perhaps trite but evocative of A A Milne.

Serenade No 10 by American composer Persichetti comprised eight very brief and very different movements that seemed to call for a visual programme of some kind. But I most enjoyed a suite of pieces by Bernard Andres called Narthex, depictions of stained glass in French churches of Cluny and Saint Lazare, with their evocation of medieval Christian imagery through clear, vivid melodies: refreshing, straightforward stuff…

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