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John Solum: Live in Concert
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Flute sonata in D major op.50 [15:16]
Joseph RHEINBERGER (1839-1901)
Rhapsodie (1856) [6:49]
Paul TAFFANEL (1844-1908)
Allegretto Grazioso (1877) [1:53]
André CAPLET (1878-1925)
Reverie and Petite Valse (1897) [7:44]
Georges ENESCO (1881-1955)
Cantabile et Presto (1904) [6:04]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Sonatine (1922) [8:58]
Richard WILSON (b. 1941)
Music for Solo Flute (1972) [11:20]
Ernesto KOHLER (1849-1907)
Flight of the Swallows Op 72 [3:47]
John Solum (flute); Irma Vallecillo (piano)
rec. 19 September 1985, Skinner Recital Hall, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, 29 October 1978, London, England (Kohler). DDD/ADD
MSR CLASSICS MS1126 [61:50]
Experience Classicsonline

The opening movement of Hummel’s D major Sonata is bright and lightly played on this live recording by American flute player, John Solum. The slow movement demonstrates his warm and colourful tone, while the finale once again gives an opportunity for fast-paced energy.
Solum is a distinguished flutist with an impressive pedigree. Born in 1935, he studied with Kincaid and went to Princeton University. Currently professor of flute at Vassar College, he has been associated with the Flute Club of New York, National Flute Association and the Connecticut Early Music Festival. Over twenty composers have written music for him, perhaps most notably Copland, who composed his Duo in memory of William Kincaid at Solum’s request. Respected as an editor and recording artist, his professional career has spanned over fifty years.
In the modern recording age, there can often be a disparity between quality in a live performance and a recording. In a recording studio, the only constraints on technical perfection are the amount of time the performer has to make re-takes to cover any mistakes. The spontaneity of the live performance can be lost and the art of being a recording artist can be far removed from that of a concert artist. All the more impressive, then, that this live concert recording lives up to the high standards we have become accustomed to on disc.
Solum performs a wide range of repertoire here, from the sparkling Hummel to a three movement work by contemporary composer Richard Wilson, heard in chronological order. Rheinberger’s Rhapsodie is a beautiful work, in which Solum displays his excellent control of tone colours and expressive range. He is accompanied in this recital by Irma Vallecillo, whose playing is both sensitive and expressive, allowing the flute and the music space to breathe where required. The combination of these two players is a winning formula. Taffanel’s Allegretto Grazioso is a lilting miniature, performed with poise and grace. I have heard a number of recordings of Caplet’s Reverie and Petite Valse, my favourite being Paul Edmund Davies’ recording for EMI, but this comes a close second. Solum takes the Reverie slowly, giving a real sense of its dreamlike mood. The Valse has fluidity and direction, with a wonderful sense of ebb and flow. Listening to Solum it is clear that he is not bound up in the diva mentality of some flute players. His technical security is merely a tool of his work as a musician – this programme does not ‘show off’ or ever once lose its musical focus. This is essentially simple repertoire, played with polish and artistry with expression and musicality at its essence.
Enesco’s Cantabile et Presto was composed as a test piece for the Paris Conservatoire in 1904, and is now frequently played by flute students everywhere. Solum’s Cantabile is well paced, with a lovely sense of flow. The Presto is taken at an impressive speed, and the dramatic impact is further enhanced by a couple of ‘live performance moments’; somehow very occasional slips add to the performance rather than detract from it.
Milhaud’s Sonatine has a hypnotic musical language which fuses the French romantic tradition with jazz and modernism. The music twists and turns, sometimes turbulent, sometimes languishing in the harmony and the textural piano writing. The recital ends with Richard Wilson’s three movement Music for Solo Flute, written for Harvey Sollberger in 1972. This is a well written work which shows an understanding for the capabilities of the flute. The music features bird-like motives, which reminded me of Messiaen. This is a highly enjoyable work, lyrical at times and technically challenging at others, and always full of character and personality.
As an encore, Solum adds a previously unreleased studio recording of Kohler’s Flight of the Swallows for flute and orchestra. This is a short work in the form of a charming and virtuoso waltz. Although the recital would have been complete without this, Kohler’s music provides an entertaining ‘lollipop’ at the end of an excellent disc.
Carla Rees


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