Woodwind Soloists from the New Zealand School of Music
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday, 11 August 2010, 12.15pm
Woodwind in name only; there was no wood in evidence – there were silver flutes and brass saxophones.
Naturally, there were varying levels of achievement amongst the students featured, but they all gave a good account of themselves. Throughout the concert (there was only one unaccompanied item), piano accompaniments were sensitively and musically provided by Emma Sayers, in a wide variety of pieces.
The students apparently were required to give a spoken introduction to their pieces. It is a pity that they (and their tutors!) are not given more help with doing this. They need to be encouraged to project their voices. St Andrew’s is a large, resonant space, so anyone speaking without amplification must talk more loudly and slowly than some did at this concert, otherwise there is no point at all in speaking.
Quite a proportion of the people who attend the lunch-hour concerts are elderly and have less hearing than the young do. It is very frustrating for them if they cannot hear what is said. Some performers treated the spoken introduction as something to be got over quickly, while a few, notably Julia Deverall, provided plenty of background in her remarks, and spoke clearly and not too quickly.
A lack in the programme was that no dates were given for the composers, and although some of the players gave dates for the compositions they performed, for others, we were left in the dark as to when the composers flourished.
The first performer, Chloe Schnell on the flute, spoke clearly but a little too quietly. Her piece, Black Anemones by Joseph Schwanter was very impressionistic and featured a lovely piano accompaniment. It was played well with excellent tone, although the breathing was a little noisy.
Dubois (1930-1995) was the next composer, of A l’Espagnole for alto saxophone, played by Katherine Maciaszek, who announced her piece with much better projection. The music was bright, jazzy, fast, and off-beat, and the performance thoroughly convincing.
Sehr Langsam from sonata for flute and piano by Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) was performed by Monique Vossen. We heard her introduction well; the piece turned out to be reflective and gloomy (rather than the predicted ‘doomy’), but enjoyable, and well communicated.
Back to alto saxophone for ‘Vif’ from Scaramouche by Darius Milhaud (1892-1974); a typically lively piece of the composer’s works for winds. It was played very well, with plenty of light and shade. The spoken introduction started clearly, but unfortunately Emma Hayes-Smith then lowered her voice and sped up so as to become unintelligible.
Adagio from Concerto for flute and orchestra by Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) was the choice of Anna Newth. This was a very romantic piece, beautifully played. Her introduction was a little soft, but intelligible from my seat, about five rows from the front.
Flamenco Jazz for solo baritone saxophone was the work played by Geraint Scott. It was composed by Englishman Paul Harvey, who, we were told in the rather rapid introduction, lived in Spain for a considerable time. The fusion between flamenco and jazz was interesting, but there was little dynamic variation in the performance.
John Ritchie (b.1921) wrote The Snow Goose in 1982, based on the famous Paul Gallico story from World War II, we were told in Julia Deverall’s exemplary introduction. This gorgeous piece for flute and piano was extremely well played with good attention to dynamics, though occasionally noisy breathing.
American Paul Creston (1906-1985) wrote a sonata for alto saxophone and piano, the ‘With Vigour’ movement from which was chosen by Reuben Chin. It was written in 1939, the performer’s rather too quiet introduction informed us. It was tastefully played with plenty of subtlety, and light and shade.
Despite my criticisms of the way in which items were introduced, this was an interesting and pleasing presentation of work from the wind students, who have reached a considerable level of accomplishment.