St.Andrew’s on-the-Terrace Lunchtime Concerts presents:
THE TWENTIETH-CENTURY FLUTE WORLD
Music by Georges Hüe, Sigfrid Klarg-Elert, Ian Clarke, Robert Aitken, Alfredo Casella
Hannah Sassman (flute) / Robyn Jaquiery (piano)
Wednesday, 10th July, 2013
A thoroughly invigorating music-listening experience! – most appropriately for a middle-of-the-day concert, this had an engaging “borne-on-air” quality, as much to do with the playing of two consummate artists as with the instruments and repertoire.
Hannah Sassman plays flute with both the NZSO and Orchestra Wellington as a freelance musician, and teaches the instrument to a number of advanced students. She’s currently a music librarian with RNZ Concert, and recently completed her Master of Music degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder, USA.
Her partner today at the piano, Robyn Jacquiery, is a well-known and highly-regarded accompanist, working with solo singers, instrumentalists and choirs.
Their combination here brought an assemblage of generally little-known repertoire to life for us, beginning with a Fantasie by French composer Georges Hüe, a contemporary of Gounod and Franck, and a winner of the Prix de Rome.
Known during his lifetime mainly for his operas and choral works, Hüe wrote this Fantasie in response to a commission by the Paris Conservatoire’s professor of flute, Adolphe Hennebains, to whom the piece is also dedicated. Originally for flute and piano (which latter part was subsequently orchestrated, according to my researches) it’s a delicate and charming work, with that unique kind of bitter-sweet amalgam of “French Catholic” sentiment and late-romantic astringency that, to my ears haunts French fin-de-siecle music.
As engaging a communicator when talking about the music as when playing it, Hannah Sassman gave us just enough “background” to each piece in a way that nicely complemented the program notes. And with her playing of such things as Karg-Elert’s Chaconne for solo flute, she demonstrated how, in the hands of a gifted performer, music can indeed take up where words leave off – the Chaconne ranged from evocations of meditative calm to episodes of impulsive excitability.
The most recently-written works on the program were Ian Clarke’s Hypnosis and Sunday Morning, pieces which stemmed from the composer’s work in rock groups in the 1990s, the latter piece suggesting to Clarke a connection with Lionel Ritchie’s “Easy like Sunday Morning”, and giving the work a title. Hannah Sassman demonstrated for us some of the special “flute techniques” used by the pieces – things like slides and “timbral trills”.
More esoteric, perhaps, was Canadian composer Robert Aitken’s Icicle, written in 1977, a piece using microtonal techniques and nuances. Parallel to the rigorous intellectual aspects of all of this was the piece’s wonderful atmosphere, its figurations and the instrument’s timbre readily suggesting birdsong.
Music by Italian composer Alfredo Casella concluded the programme – an attractively written Sicilienne et Burlesque dating from 1914, lots of fun to listen to, and obviously, judging from the spirited nature of today’s performance, to play.
I enjoyed the music’s ritual-like opening, with its suggestions of both chant and folk-song, the piano’s graceful, rhythmic progressions creating different ambiences for the flute’s peregrinations. The time-honoured progression from slow to fast worked brilliantly here, with the energetic Burlesque – in places intense and dark-browed, but in others lightened by an attractive insouciance. Both players handled the many changes of time and tempo with considerable aplomb – we listeners found ourselves caught up in the music’s trajectories, and enjoyed the excitement both musicians generated at the finish. Splendid!