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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

AVAILABILITY 

Cantilena  

Laurel Zucker and Susan Jolles
Images for flute and harp

Ida GOTKOWSKY (b. 1933)
Eolienne for flute and harp (1976) [13:34]
Jean FRANCAIX (b. 1912)
Cinque piccolo duetti for flute and harp (1975) [9:12]
Theo SMIT SIBINGA (1899-1958)
Trois Images for Flute and Harp (1954) [10:20]
Victor FROST (b.1952)
Sonatine for flute and harp (1998) [11:54]
Katherine HOOVER (b. 1937)
Dances and Variations for flute and harp (1996) [19:30]
Laurel Zucker, flute
Susan Jolles, harp
rec. Suny Purchase Hall C, Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, State University of New York, December 1999.
CANTILENA 66016-2 [64:39]

 

 

In many ways, this collection of works is exactly what one might expect for this instrument pairing. Dreamy, Debussian works harking back to Afternoon of a Faun, are the order of the day here. I must confess that such homage is not a bad thing at all. Mmes. Zucker and Jolles have compiled an ultimate “rainy day in the woods” recital, and it makes a very pleasant hour of listening indeed.

It opens with Ida Gotkowsky’s Eolienne for flute and harp. This is a brief five movement work whose breezy melodies and virtuoso writing complete with extended techniques for both instruments is simultaneously soothing to the ear and thrilling. It makes for a welcome beginning.

Jean Francaix is a composer that I have come to know only recently, and with each new work that I hear, I kick myself for passing him over for so long. Tuneful and yet never trite, Francaix’s is an original and yet traditional voice. These delightful miniatures show him at his finest. Cleverly crafted with nary a wasted note, these are pieces of tremendous charm and panache.

Theo Smit Sibinga lived a difficult life, enduring exile and incarceration as a war prisoner during World War II. And yet his music reflects such serenity one would wonder that he ever suffered so much as a head cold. Expressive and tuneful, his Three images are wonderful theatre of the mind. The listener is quickly lost in reverie.

Although Victor Frost claims that the tunes in the opening movement of his Sonatine are adapted from children’s songs, one can clearly hear the influence of Wagner. I had to pay careful attention to make sure that I was not hearing a quote from the Lohengrin prelude. Of all the works on this program, Frost’s is the most harmonically venturesome, which is a welcome alleviation from the sort of whole-tone sameness of the preceding works. His manipulation of meter and rhythm is also a refreshing relief from the arpeggiated world of the earlier works. He actually writes some music that borders on agitato, although he never comes right out and does it. Of all the works on this disc, I found this one to be the most rewarding.

Katherine Hoover’s Dances and Variations is the longest work on the program and from the outset is full of vigor and rhythmic vitality, even amidst its gentle harmonies. The adagio is rather episodic in nature, and it captivates the ears with its mysterious sonorities and sometimes halting, ambiguous rhythmic structure. The final variations on the tune My Days have been so Wondrous Free was not at all what I expected, and the folk tune foundation gives the closing of this work a comforting sense of repose.

This is my first experience with the Cantilena label, and I must say that the results are very pleasing. I was however maddened by the low quality of the program notes. For most listeners, this is completely unfamiliar music, and there was precious little information about the works themselves. Far more ink was spilled on biographies of the composers, which in my opinion was the opposite of where the emphasis should lie. If these composers are as award-winning and outstanding as is indicated in the notes, then their music will speak well enough for them. It would be better to know a bit of what to expect from the works themselves.

Fortunately, the music does speak well of its composers. These are lovely works, refreshingly tuneful and elegant, yet not at all without substance. They are lovingly performed by two exceptionally fine players, and they are captured in a fine, well balanced, clear ambience. Of particular merit is the exquisite balance between the players, their utter respect for each other in terms of collaboration and ensemble, and Ms. Zucker’s lush, warm and never shrill tone. With the exception of my quibble about the documentation, this disc is a complete winner and an adventure in sound that deserves to be sought out by serious collectors and musicians, and by casual lovers of delightful music alike. Very highly recommended indeed.

Kevin Sutton

 

 

 

 



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