Unfamiliar music given a chance to shine in characterful performances at St. Andrew’s

St. Andrew’s Luchtime Concert Series presents:
Music for Flute and Piano

Aaron Copland: Duo for Flute and Piano
Claude Debussy: En bateau
Mel Bonis: Sonata for Flute and Piano in C-sharp minor

St. Andrews on the Terrace

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

One of the great joys of the lunch time concerts at St. Andrews on the Terrace is that these provide opportunities to hear some of the talented artists living among us, the other is to hear music that otherwise is seldom performed. Rebecca Steel is one of the most experienced flautists around, having played with orchestras both overseas and here in Wellington and Christchurch. Kris Zuelicke moved from Germany to New Zealand. Here she added to her skills as an accomplished pianist a doctorate in harpsichord performance. The programme they presented is largely unknown. Mel Bonis, though a prolific French composer, who studied with César Franck and wrote some 300 works, is largely forgotten. Writing music was not a respectable profession for a woman at her time. Copland has a regular place in the repertoire, but the Duo for Flute and Piano, though a substantial work, is not often played. Debussy is, of course, a major figure, but his popular En bateau is better known in its original four-hand piano version as part of the Le Petite Suite, than in this arrangement for flute and piano.

Copland’s  Duo for Flute and Piano opens with a haunting flute solo, that sets the mood which is typical of Copland – an evocative distant, lonely American prairie sound. Think of the Call of the Wild. The second movement is melancholic, well suited to the timbre of the flute. It is intense, touching music. As a contrast, the last movement is spirited, joyful. It is a challenging work for the flute, that requires clarity of phrasing and articulation.

Debussy’s En bateau is a sweet, charming little piece, suggesting gently undulating waves on some peaceful water. Played on the flute it has a special endearing quality.

Bonis’s Sonata for Flute and Piano, published in 1904 is a major work that reflects the music of Bonis’s better known late romantic contemporaries, Franck and Faure. Bonis, a very talented young woman, who shared a bench with the young Debussy at the Conservatoire, gave up composition for some years when her life was devoted to bringing up the children of her 25 year older widowed husband and children of her own. Late in life she returned to composition. Her many works include chamber music, music for piano solos, orchestral, religious and organ music, and music for children. The Sonata for Flute and Piano  is founded on the interplay of the rich harmonies of the piano and an appealing melodic line on the flute. The four movements projected the four different elements of the work, a passionate Andantino followed by a contrasting Scherzo, a moving adagio, and finally a Moderato summing up the mood of the piece. The performance was notable for the passionate playing of the piano and the somewhat cool, clear, restrained playing of the flute.

Hearing these pieces in a live performance was specially rewarding. It is to the credit of these two experienced musicians that the audience at this lunch time concert was given an opportunity to get to know these unfamiliar works.


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