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The Hallelujah Tree
Meyer KUPFERMAN (1926-2003)

The Hallelujah Tree (2000) [17.13]
Dana Paul PERNA

Three Conversations between Two Flutists, Pop 55 (1980) [13.15]
Deux Berceuses for flute and piano Pop 87a (1988) [10.17]
Jeff MANOOKIAN (b.1953)

Sonata for piccolo and piano (2003) [23.09]
Miguel CHUAQUI

Ancient Wing for flute solo (1993 revised 1998) [6.12]
Laurel Ann Maurer (flute, piccolo and alto flute)
Manah Atanessyan (harp)
John Warner Jensen (piano)
Suzanne Duffy (flute)
Serenade Chamber Orchestra of Armenia/Jeff Manookian
Recorded Staller Centre, SUNY, NY, 1994, Cinema House Hall, Yerevan, Armenia 2002 and Counterpoint Studios, Utah 2003
4TAY 4029 [70.16]

Laurel Ann Maurer has been assiduous in commissioning new works for the repertoire and all but one of the five on this disc receive their premiere recordings here. The senior composer is Kupferman whose The Hallelujah Tree gives its title to the disc. It was written for Maurer in 2002 and is based on music he wrote for a 1962 film. It was commissioned just in time because Kupferman, a great loss to America’ s musical landscape, died in 2003. There are five compact movements and Kupferman asks for flute, doubling alto flute and piccolo, harp and strings. Moods range from ultra romanticism to scurrying virtuosity, warm harp delicacy, and in the central movement a sense of vernal delight. There are some pawky-perky rhythms in the brief Allegretto.

Perna’s Three Conversations dates from1980 and is in three concise movements. The first exploits some "practice room" sonorities between the two flautists taking both instruments up very high. More congenial perhaps is the second, marked slow…faster…slower and.... with a certain remorseless directness. Of the three it was the finale that most impressed me with its increasing warmth and sense of invention. His Deux Berceuses were written for Jerome Moross and for Debussy and it’s the noble gravity of the former that says in the mind most.

Jeff Manookian has written an overlong Sonata for piccolo and piano, which at twenty-four or so minutes needs pruning. It’s strongly written however, especially for piano and in its first movement exploits the upper register of the piccolo – essentially dreamy and quiet for the piccolo though that’s twice shattered by brief piano chordal assertions. He central movement has a certain emotive toughness and the cadenza that launches the finale has a hint of Eastern/Jewish music before some gruff passagework. This however is deceptive and we get instead some jagged, almost cinematic motifs (reminded me of terse TV Cop music actually) laced with plenty of feroce before a quiet end.

The only piece not receiving a premiere recording is Miguel Chuaqui’s Ancient Wing for solo flute of 1993 but revised five years later. It’s a brief quasi-descriptive piece about Archaeopteryx, the Ancient Wing of the title, and the prehistoric "missing link" between the lizard and the bird. Deft indeed is the summoning up of its flapping wings!

This is an adventurous and wide-ranging survey of works that owe their genesis to the very able soloist and are played by her with great finesse. I greatly enjoyed much of the Kupferman, the Chuaqui, one of the Perna Berceuse and the finale of the Manookian. Not a bad return for a contemporary flute and piccolo album. Terse notes though.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 



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