Portugal

DEAR COMPOSERS: 4th Competition underway!

Dear cherished composers: we are pleased to announce (again, better a little late than never) that the 4th Composition Competition of the Summer Flute Academy is underway! 

Our two categories this year are: 1) SOLO WORK for "low flute"—alto, bass or contrabass; and 2) QUINTET for a flexible group of five flutists. The competition is open to composers of all ages and nationalities. We are excited to see, play and hear what you send in, so set your imaginations free!

First prizes include a premier performance at the 5th Summer Flute Academy, recorded in video and audio, publication of the work by Scherzo Editions, and cash prizes. We are proud to be sponsored by Verne Q. Powell Flutes, USA, and Kingma Flutes in Holland, and supported by ESMAE and Scherzo Editions—thank you all!

All details can be found on the Summer Flute Academy (Academia de Flauta de Verão) site. Deadline for entries is March 20th, 2017. SPREAD THE WORD!

Information available online in both English and Portuguese

Information available online in both English and Portuguese

Stephanie Wagner, Powell Flutist

Well, this was to have gone out on her birthday earlier this week, but I got distracted/tied up… I just thought I would kick off a series of blog entries on some of the wonderful flutists here in Portugal who are Powell players, and who better to start with than my wonderful colleague Stephanie Wagner?

Stephanie has been the flutist of the Remix Ensemble of the Casa da Música in Porto for over ten years (congratulations!!). So obviously she has a special interest in contemporary music, and as a Remix member, she has performed solo works, as soloist, and in ensemble pieces of all kinds all over Europe! You can check out some of her recordings on her website, of course!

Furthermore, Stephanie was the "driving force" behind the creation of the Summer Flute Academy (Academia de Flauta de Verão), which will celebrate it's 5th edition next July. Together with myself and the fabulous Raquel Lima (Prof. at ESMAE, Porto), Stephanie brought to fruition a dream of making a new kind of summer flute course, where students are constantly challenged, and where they spend most of the day on their feet playing, and also learning about many "lateral" aspects of being a musician. Thank you Stephanie for having so many great ideas, and for inviting us on board for the ride!

Stephanie plays on a Powell flute that she bought while she was studying at the New England Conservatory with (Powell player) Fenwick Smith (2nd Flute of the Boston Symphony), as well as a Powell Piccolo. She is also a big proponent of "low flutes" and plays and is the representative in Portugal for the alto, bass and contrabass flutes of Eva Kingma, of Holland. Talk about versatile! For more information on someone having a very interesting and creative career, see Stephanie's website as well as our revamped site of the Academy!

Stephanie Wagner, Powell player, Remix Ensemble; Photo ©Susana Neves

Stephanie Wagner, Powell player, Remix Ensemble; Photo ©Susana Neves

Faune-a-thon!

So we know what a marathon is, and we know what a phone-a-thon is, but what's a "Faune-a-thon"? It's when you play Debussy's "Faune" (Prelude à l'après-midi d'un faune, if you prefer) TWELVE TIMES in the same morning! I should know, because that's what was on the orchestra docket yesterday— luckily for a good cause:

The Portuguese national Youth Music Prizes is celebrating its 30th Edition this year by, among other events, staging its first-ever Competition for Orchestral Conductors, and our orchestra is their "instrument" for the live rounds, three in all. Yesterday was the first live round, with TWELVE candidates, all of whom had to conduct (the first half of) Faune, plus the 4th movement of Beethoven's First Symphony (first half, also). 

I am happy to report that it was actually fun, in part because the pressure was more on the candidates than on the flute soloist (for once). Secondly, as there was no time to talk, the approach in rehearsal to this famous and incredibly beautfily work was fairly existential—what's coming next? And thirdly, it was fun because the conductors were of an excellent level (Faune is a work that poses many difficulties and options for the conductor, too!)—another reflection of the amazing quality of music-making going on here in Portugal! Bravo, maestros!

Leon Bakst's famous program cover for the 1912 premier by the  Ballets Russes , with Nijinsky as the Faune.

Leon Bakst's famous program cover for the 1912 premier by the Ballets Russes, with Nijinsky as the Faune.

Art, Humanity and Progress

On my excursion to the North of Portugal, I was finally able to visit the Museum of "Arte Rupestre" (Prehistoric Rock Art) of the Valley of Foz Côa. This remarkable archeological site was discovered during excavations for an eventual dam, that luckily was never built, due to the importance of the site, named as World Patrimony in 1998. I remember all this excitement but had never gotten around to visiting.

Well, what a treasure trove of art! Spanning thousands of years during the Palaeolithic ages, dating as far back as 25,000 years B.C. and encompassing an extended area, the drawings (engravings) show changes in style and technique and are notable for their profusion—like a musical fugue: one drawing overlaps with several others. The archaeological work done in the last 20 years is astounding.

In the Museum—a handsome architectural monument—this quote, from a famous French archaeologist resonated: "The history of art and humanity are indissociable". To be artistic is to be human. The drawings to the left of the quote are from Picasso (1946, far left) and from the Foz Côa rock art (c. 22,000 B.C, near left). With all due respect for Picasso…so much for progress in art! 

From the Museum at Foz Côa

From the Museum at Foz Côa

Postcard from Portugal

Since Beethoven if not much earlier, the beauty of nature has been an inspiration for composers and musicians, and here in Portugal there's no lack of natural beauty to take one's breath away! It's always good to occasionally recharge one's batteries, breathe deeply (without exhaling through a flute!), and drink in the beauty that is all around us.

On a short holiday in the northeastern area of the country, between discovering many enchanting villages and churches—photos coming soon—I am finding the landscape to be gently divine, and remarkably pristine. Here's a photo from near Torre de Moncorvo, something to hold in my memory whenever a piece of unspoilt nature is the remedy for urban ills…

Rolling hills, cork and olive trees in the North of Portugal

Rolling hills, cork and olive trees in the North of Portugal