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20th Century European Flute Music
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Sonata for flute and piano (1927) [12:38]
André CAPLET (1879-1925)
Improvisations d’après Le pain quotidien
(1920) [12:19]
Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
La plainte, au loin, du Faune… (1920)
Pièce écrite pour le Tombeau de Claude Debussy
Transcription pour flûte et piano par Gustave Samazeuilh (1927) [4:26]

Vassili LOBANOV (b.1947)
Sonata for flute and piano opus 38 (1983) [13:29]
Bruno MADERNA (1920-1973)
Honeyrêves per flauto e pianoforte (1961) [5:44]
Niccolo CASTIGLIONI (1932-1996)
Musica Vneukokvhaja per ottavino (1965/1981) [7:36]
Kim BOWMAN (b.1957)
Eoos for flute and piano (1991) [12:11]
Walter HEKSTER (b.1937)
Crescent Moon for alto flute (1991) [7:11]
Koos Verheul (flute)
Jan van der Meer (piano)
rec. 1995-1997, Bachzaal, Amsterdam
ETCETERA KTC1376 [77:17] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


Like any flautist who spends any length of time in The Netherlands, I have come across the name Koos Verheul as a major influence on numerous generations of students, now mature musicians in their own right. Koos Verheul studied at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, and he and Jan van der Meer were contemporaries there. At over fifty years as a performing duo, these musicians must hold some kind of chamber music record. Both have worked for the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague, and in terms of musical synergy this duo almost literally plays as one.

None of the pieces on this fascinating disc are particularly well known, especially when one compares them with ubiquitous flute repertoire such as the Poulenc Sonata or Debussy’s Syrinx. Erwin Schulhoff’s 1927 Sonata for flute and piano is however not entirely unfamiliar and is an excellent repertoire piece, full of emotional depth and elegant contrast. The work is in four movements, but retains a compact character, wasting no time with needless repetitions or redundant sequential writing. There is a good deal of playful music in the Scherzo second movement and Allegro molto gaio finale, but the penultimate Aria holds the emotional soul and weight of this sonata.

André Caplet was influenced by his good friend Claude Debussy, and the harmonic language in the piano and melodic shapes in his music here show some evidence of this. Le pain quotidien or ‘The Daily Bread’ is one of a set of 15 short compositions from this period, and the ‘improvisations’ are all fairly straightforward and easily digestible quasi-exotique musical statements, with self explanatory titles such as Nostalgique, Décidé, Balancé and Gracieux.

Paul Dukas is represented here by a piece which is also related to Debussy, having been written as a piano piece in his memory. Arranged for flute and piano by Gustave Samazeuilh, a pupil of Dukas, the flute brings out even more strongly than in the original a quote from the Debussy’s Prélude á l’après-midi d’un faune among other references.

Extreme contrast is introduced into the programme at this stage, with a piccolo shrieking at us from the opening of Vassiliv Lobanov’s Sonata for flute (alternating with piccolo) and piano. Set in a single movement, the music is based on a motif which is developed in inversion, extended, inverted, and generally milked for all it’s worth. Dramatic impact is a strong aspect of this piece, but it also has plenty of intriguing intellectual content, driving players and listener in some kind of symbiotic argument or circus ride – depending on how your imagination is conditioned to accept such material. The introduction of the piccolo is an interesting aspect of the work as well, and the lyrical introduction to the sublime final section breaks through the stereotype of this mini-flute as a screaming irritant.

The title of Bruno Maderna’s piece Honeyrêves is an adaptation of ‘Onireves’, or the first name of Severino Gazzeloni in palindrome. Gazzeloni was of course the flautist for extended techniques beloved of composers in the 1960s and 1970s, and this work is, as the booklet author Aad van der Ven accurately describes, “a miniature compendium of flute technique in modern music.” This does of course have its ‘squeaky gate’ associations, but one needs these days to throw off preconceptions of avant-garde noise making and see this as authentic performance practice from the last century played by one who lived through and was a star of this very era – not to forget the pianist of course, but it’s not the pianist you remember in this piece. As a counter to this kind of music, Niccolò Castiglioni’s Musica Vneukokvahja for piccolo solo is light-hearted neoclassical response to the Darmstadt school of modernism, introducing variations on ancient medieval material and the clarity of tonal declamatory music making to communicate its message.

Kim Bowman is an Australian who studied in The Netherlands. The title Eoos, which is Greek for ‘daybreak’ is suggestive, but the content of the music owes as much to the stamping passion of a flamenco dance than to any illustration of natural phenomena. Perhaps the ‘daybreak’ is that which occurs after the nocturnal gestures and dramas of the dance – it certainly left me with a bit of a hangover.

Dutch composer Walter Hekster derives inspiration from the Japanese arts, including Haiku poetry, woodcuts and the like. Crescent Moon for alto flute solo has some of the gestural qualities of someone like Takemitsu, with microtonal and chord overtones exploring the resonances of this larger brother to the conventional flute.

This is a fascinating and well-filled recital of interesting work for flute, especially in combination with piano. I have played in the Bachzaal a few times myself, and the atmosphere of the acoustic there is well captured on this disc. Koos Verheul is no longer in the first flush of youth, and while some might consider the Olympian sport of flute playing to be a young person’s game, he shows that the elder statesmen of blowing through an absurd metal tube for a living can show the new generations a thing or two about stylish music-making. Maybe his tone is a little on the diffuse side on occasions, but Verheul’s flexibility on the piccolo and alto flute shows he was still no slouch ten years ago, and already well into what most of us would consider a well earned pensionable age for retirement.
         
Dominy Clements


 


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