Concert Review

An Evening of Flute & Piano Music
Sarah Newbold (flute), Michael Blackmore (piano)
Hellens, Much Marcle, nr Ledbury
12 July 2012

An Espressivo promotion

Mozart’s Flute Sonata in F, K13 was a delightful opening to this recital. The sensitive balance between Sarah Newbold (flute) and Michael Blackmore (piano) as they delivered quick runs alongside legato melody within the Allegro, an easy lilt and beautiful tone for Andante and precisely balanced descending chromatic phrases of Menuetto made it seem inconceivable that this composition was that of a young lad aged 8!

French music featured widely and the four portraits reflected in ‘Joueurs de Flûte' Op.27 by Roussel gave Sarah scope to show many features of her flute playing. Pan was flexible as she soared to some very high pitched notes; Michael meanwhile syncopated; Tityre was lively and humorous and the disembodied haunting mood of Krishna was decorated with long flute trills. Monsieur de la Péjaudie was lively, rhythmic and somewhat pedantic.

Continuing with the Greek myth theme we heard Derek Smith’s ‘Orphean Escapade’ (2009) which tells the story in visionary sound language. Inherent were the strong bass figures and quick flute snippets and the piano’s squelchy discords. Eurydice’s Lament was especially telling as the slow flute melody jumped and the piano chords wandered lost and disconsolate. The finale erupted with an ear-splitting call by the flute, a bit of boogie-woogie from the pianist’s bass and complex scrabbling around at high pitch. Tempo changes were effective and tonal colour superb.

Sarah performed a poignant solo, ‘Syrinx’ by Debussy, eloquent and pellucid as she flowed freely. By the same composer, Michael gave a fine interpretation of ‘Danseuses de Delphes’ as he created warmth of sound with the high register of Hellens' superb Steinway resonant. In Gluck’s ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’ and ‘Sicilienne’ by Fauré further evidence of the empathy between Sarah and Michael was heard.

Derek Smith’s ‘Aubade’ (2011) was given its première. This was not representative of anything in particular but a most pleasing work to enjoy. Opening with bravura staccato piano episodes and rapid flute phrases the music gave way to a lyrical section of pianist’s reverie. The music grew in stature until we came to a reprise of the opening, ending up with a coquettish flourish!

In conclusion we heard one of the great sonatas for flute and piano, Poulenc’s. The Allegretto glowed as both musicians flowed in glorious rhapsodic melody. Cantilena’s cantabile long phrases of the flute in partnership with the piano were brilliant and the pianist’s precision combined with a virtuoso performance from the flautist culminated in the Presto’s stunning final crescendo.

During the interval delicious strawberries and cream with wine had been served.

Jill Hopkins

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