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Laurel Zucker – An American Flute Recital
Laurel ZUCKER (b. 1955) Aviary for solo flute (1982)[3:25]; Aaron COPLAND (1900 – 1990) Duo for flute and piano (1971)[13:53]; Alec WILDER (1907 – 1980) Sonata No. 2 for flute and piano (1965) [11:36]; Laurel ZUCKER Effect Out for solo flute (1982) [3:05]; Kent KENNAN (b. 1913) Night Soliloquy for flute and piano (1936) [3:59]; Ernest BLOCH (1880 – 1959) Suite Modale for flute and piano (1956) [13:03]; Laurel ZUCKER Shining for solo flute (1982) [1:26]; Daniel KINGMAN (b. 1924) Scenario Musical II for flute and piano (1992) [11:17]
Laurel Zucker (flute), Marc Shapiro (piano)
Recorded in Cunningham Chapel in Belmont, California. No recording dates given.
CANTILENA RECORDS 660022 [61:44]
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Just a day or two before I listened to this disc, recorded somewhere in the early 1990s - © 1993 – I read a MusicWeb review of a companion disc, written by flautist Dominy Clements. He hailed the disc with the bottom line "It’s the best demo disc I’ve heard for  long time" but still had some harsh remarks on certain aspects. Since I am decidedly not a flautist I probably listen in an different way, but I know the problem. A pianist friend of mine with an international career hardly ever goes to concerts, especially not piano recitals, because, as he says: "I am listening to this detail and that and in the end I leave the hall exhausted but dissatisfied". Mr Clements praised Ms Zucker’s technique - what else can one do? - but wasn’t quite satisfied with the tone of the instrument. He wrote: "Zucker has the microphone fairly close to her nose by the sound of it, and her brilliant sound can be close to painful in the high registers, even at low volume. This is ‘power flute’ combined with microphone settings which have taken no account of the flute’s third octave forward acoustic peak, so I don’t recommend headphone listening."

The two discs were probably not recorded at the same time and presumably not in the same venue either. Out of defiance I did exactly what I shouldn’t – I listened through headphone and it caused me no trouble. Nor was the balance between flute and piano a problem, so it seems that recording engineer Don Ososke, who is credited in the booklet, found the right settings of his sound-desk.

I didn’t find any discs in my collection with a comparable programme, the closest being "An American Recital", recorded in January 1993 by Collins Classics with Jennifer Stinton and Malcolm Martineau. The pieces they have in common are those by Copland and Kennan. Stinton and Martineau, recorded at St. John’s, Smith Square, are even more ideally balanced and there is yet more urgency in Stinton’s playing of Copland’s Duo. I hope this disc will make a return to the catalogue, if it hasn’t already done so. Without direct comparisons I have no qualms in recommending Laurel Zucker, and she probably has the field open to herself for most of the pieces. Her own three short pieces for solo flute, written for dancer Kathleen Quinlan, are agreeable and explore the instrument’s possibilities. For contrast she has wisely sprinkled them in between some more extensive music. The Copland Duo is a fine work with an especially memorable last movement, full of fun, and Wilder’s Sonata has two beautiful slow movements. Kent Kennan’s Night Soliloquy is atmospheric and also exists in versions for flute and strings, which seems to have been the original, and for wind ensemble.

Bloch’s Suite Modale is mainly inward – this is an old man’s music. Finally Daniel Kingman composed Scenario Musical II for Laurel Zucker in 1992, just about the time it was recorded. Compositionally it reminds me of the baroque suite with an overture, here entitled Sonatine and some dance movements, but the layout is quite original: a Petite mazurka is followed by a Rhapsodie sur la mazurka, a kind of development of the preceding movement. Then to begin with there is a somewhat hesitant Petite Valse, that features a lovely melody. Finally as another response there is a Tarantelle sur la valse. It’s all very entertaining and allows the flautist opportunities to show off.

An attractive disc with some interesting repertoire, well played by Laurel Zucker and pianist Marc Shapiro, the latter playing a Bechstein. It is enjoyable on headphones and speakers alike – I tried both.

Göran Forsling



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