Bruckner - an unexpected pleasure

The season begins! First concert features Bruckner Symphony #4, "The Romantic" (1878-80), which is an indulgently long, warm work that grows on you! While it may lack the fire and wildness of Mahler or Strauss, you just have to sit back a little and enjoy the "landscape" slowly passing by, the wonderful evolution of the harmonies, the occasional asides into Viennese tenderness, and of course the remarkable glow of the big brass writing. Sublime. And a good excuse to use my Powell Grenadilla flute; just the right colors!

The concert will be Sunday, Sept. 18th, at 5pm at the C.C.B. in Lisbon, and features the much more modern Lutoslawski Cello Concerto (1970) with Johannes Moser as soloist on the first half of the concert. I'm looking forward to working on that tomorrow—playing the piece, and hearing some wonderful cello playing! Two very complimentary/contrasting works to make a very balanced program—a great start to the season! Lutoslawski in black and white; Bruckner in color—

Gabrieli for flutes!

Here's the link to another video from the Summer Flute Academy, with the most incredibly beautiful music by Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612). It is rare to find pre-baroque music on a flute program, but the loss is definitely ours!

This "Canzon" in 8 voices features two groups of 4 players, facing each other from opposing sides of the room in this performance. Had we had the luck to "beam ourselves" to St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Italy, where Gabrieli was the chief composer, the design of the church with its opposing choir lofts would have amplified the antiphonal effect. Gabrieli was famous for using the spectacular acoustics of St. Mark's to the benefit of his compositions. These influenced early Baroque composers such as Schütz and indirectly Bach, bringing the Italian style into the German high-Baroque. More globalization!

Congratulations to the Academy students who performed—it was a joy to hear live, and a joy to hear again through the magic of YouTube!

Master Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli, with lute

Master Italian composer Giovanni Gabrieli, with lute

Low Flutes: Purcell Redux

For the Professors' Recital on the first day of the Summer Flute Academy, I got a chance to perform a contrabass flute duo with Stephanie Wagner, and Jonathan Ayerst on piano. This was a sort of second baptism of my new Eva Kingma Contrabass Flute, which is as fun to play as it is cool to look at! (At the 1st Summer Flute Academy I played 3 notes on Stephanie's Contra and it was love…what can I say?)

We played an adaptation I wrote for contrabass flute duo and piano of the famous aria "Dido's Lament" from Purcell's opera "Dido and Aeneas". Gloriously noble, sad music. I thank Stephanie for playing the harder part, and Jon for being the top-notch "backup band". Soon I hope we'll have all our Academy videos online—I'll let you know here as soon as they're up—but for now here's a photo! 

Two Kingma Contrabass Flutes at the 4th Summer Flute Academy

Two Kingma Contrabass Flutes at the 4th Summer Flute Academy

ESART! Scene+Symmetry

While having lunch back in June at ESART, two percussion students set up for an impromptu concert in the bar, and I couldn't resist photographing the beautiful symmetry of the two performers, José Silva and Francisco Viera, and the staircase above echoing their marimbas. 

The music was a delight, energetic but entrancing, and extremely well-played. We all dream of large, important halls, but sometimes the greatest pleasure and impact for the listener is in a more intimate, not to mention unexpected location. We all should remember this power of music, and that it exists any time we play, not just in "big" concerts. A concert is the size we make it!

Impromptu percussion recital at ESART — bravo, José Silva and Francisco Viera!

Impromptu percussion recital at ESART — bravo, José Silva and Francisco Viera!

Portugal at the US National Flute Association Convention!

We're small, but we're mighty! For anyone attending the NFA Convention in San Diego, CA, put this on your calendar for tomorrow, Sunday, August 14th, 9am: the US premier of Portuguese composer André M. Santos's work for solo flute: O motivo da menina Laite, published by Scherzo Editions of Lisbon.

The work will be performed by American flutist Tracy Doyle, of Colorado, a winner of the NFA's 2016 Convention Performer's Competition, and a Powell Flute player. The premier will be Sunday at 9am, on the program of "Newly Published Works" — works whose publishers won First Prize for the edition—in the California Room at the Convention venue. 

I sure wish I could be there to hear it, but you can be sure that the room will be filled, and Portugal will be "put on the map" as we say. Tracy has kindly agreed to send an "on-the-ground" report from the Convention afterwards, for me to publish here on the blog—keep your eyes out for that!

Toi-toi for the performance (that's Portuguese for "break a leg"), Tracy!!

Powell Flutist Tracy Doyle, with a beautiful out-West, Colorado background

Powell Flutist Tracy Doyle, with a beautiful out-West, Colorado background


Guess who's on their way to Lisbon? Aside from thousands of tourists, that is…

Answer: Raj Bhimani, the wonderful pianist of Syrinx: XXII, our trio with the fabulous António Carrilho, recorders. Soon he'll be somewhere over the Atlantic, en route from New York, in order to rehearse for upcoming concerts of Syrinx: XXII and soak up the ambience of Lisbon in August. We're preparing a couple programs about which you'll hear more later—can't spill the beans quite yet! But you can bet they'll be anything but the "same old, same old"—working with Syrinx: XXII is a case of 1+1+1=10!

I love this atmospheric, Rembrandt-esque photo of Raj (by the NY photographer Jiyang Chen) because it has depth of expression, both in the subject and in the photo itself. Plus, check out the serious piano-size hands—

American pianist, Raj Bhimani. Photo by Jiyang Chen

American pianist, Raj Bhimani. Photo by Jiyang Chen

Women Out In Front!

Dear readers of the male persuasion: please forgive me, but today I just have to write a bit about the rise of women in music, inspired by something amazing I read in the New York Times. Later I’ll write more on this theme, because although it may seem in this year of 2016, that women and men are pretty much on the same footing in the (classical) music business, I’m not so sure we are, truly.

Either way, I think it’s good to look back and see how far we've come, in order to not take things granted. Whenever I mention this subject, or certain historical figures, young players are often taken aback—hasn’t it always been the way it is now? The answer is, alas, a firm NO!

In any case, today I just have to mention a performance of a remarkable and entertaining work for soprano and small orchestra by Gyorgy Ligeti, called “Mysteries of the Macabre”, which was simultaneously sung AND conducted by the American soprano Barbara Hannigan with the Göteborgs Sinfoniker of Sweden. As the article mentions, moving from singing soprano to conducting is fairly rare, but to take both roles at the same time is—was—unheard of. Watch the video here (the work is a real stunner: modern, dramatic, but also hilariously crazy) to see it for your own eyes. 

Oddly enough, after watching this almost operatic rendition (what an outfit!!), I’m now having a hard time even imagining a standard performance, with a soprano soloist and a conductor! I’m crossing my fingers that either the work or the soprano/conductor appear on our orchestra programming; if it happens, you’ll be the first to know!

Barbara Hannigan singing and conducting Ligeti's "Mysteries of the Macabre"

Barbara Hannigan singing and conducting Ligeti's "Mysteries of the Macabre"

The Sound of Silence

You might think, if you are not TOO TOO young, that I'm referring to the classic Simon and Garfunkel album, the one I grew up listing to endlessly, putting the needle back into the groove again and again. (This was way before vinyl was "vintage", it was just "a record"). What a fabulous album! Want to know how to balance or pace a program or a CD? Look no further. "Sounds of Silence", technically. 

But no, I'm actually talking about the SILENCE of having my cell phone in the shop!! THIS, folks, is real silence! No calls, no alerts, no beeps, no apps…and… no distractions! It is a drastic measure, and I don't recommend smashing the screen on your phone to experience it, but there's something magic, too! Time that is wider-open. Silence that you can sink into. (In short: I got a lot of tidying up done!).

As musicians, we concentrate on the SOUNDS we make, but the SILENCE in between is always important, too. The silence before a piece begins, the silence after—sometimes big, sometimes tiny. The silence of an empty strong beat (thanks again, Karl Kohn). The silence where the music breathes. Here's a visual representation of lots of silence and the punch of just a little bit of "sound"—

Central Park, New York City

Central Park, New York City


This post falls into the category of "Better Late Than Never", in that it was meant to go "live" last Monday…Somehow there was a glitch, so here goes:

Back in Lisbon with Wifi, I can finally start adding photos from the incredible week that just passed! The picture speaks the proverbial thousand words: a post-final-presentation THUMBS UP from and for the whole gang of the 4th Summer Flute Academy (AFV) outside ESMAE on Sunday last. A special thank you to the fantastic students; it was a real pleasure to work with you all, and I'll see you again next year!

Post-concert good cheer at the 4th Summer Flute Academy at ESMAE, Porto

Post-concert good cheer at the 4th Summer Flute Academy at ESMAE, Porto

Kids these days…


Yesterday and today are the final presentations of the work we've done together at the 4th Summer Flute Academy- chamber music and ensrbles, respectively. What I love to see is the students' rising to the occasion as soon as they get up to perform- in front of a room of flutist-peers! Smiles and determination, gusto and charm, and "talent", oodles of talent. Which is to say hours and hours of hard work paying off. A delight to observe! With music from Gabrieli to Bozza, yesterday was a real show. Today the program leans more toward the modern, with ensemble works by Grieg and Wil Offermans, plus Jorge Ramos' "Recompor", based on a folk melody in a complex setting, and the stunning first-prize-winning (AFV's 3rd Composition Competition) duo "Traveling", for flute and alto flute, by Ricardo Matosinhos. These last two in world premiere and performed by AFV students. It's going to be quite a show again, I promise! Teatro Helena Sá e Costa at ESMAE at 11:30 am. Come see what "kids these today" can do! INSPIRING!