Flucelliano : A Refreshing Trio – 27th May 2012

Posted on May 27, 2012

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Katharine Carter (flute), Laura Seddon (cello) and Peter Dodsworth (piano)

On the hottest day of the year so far we were treated to a helping of Flucelliano; not an Italian ice cream or a thirst quenching liqueur, but refreshing music by a trio of flute, cello and piano, as part of the sesquicentenary musical programme. Leading the group was Laura Seddon who hails from St Thomas Oakwood and is a long-time friend of Christ Church; you might remember her (and her cello, which she has been playing since she was eight years old) from our Easter Sunday services or the Duruflé Requiem. Together with her friend Katharine Carter, a talented flautist, Laura organized the concert to raise funds for The London Arts Orchestra and Foundation (www.londonartsorchestra.co.uk). Laura and Katharine both perform in the orchestra, which was established to help bring music to a wider audience; concerts often feature actors, artists and even stand-up comedians, to tell the story behind the music. Peter Dodsworth completed the trio; a bassoonist and talented piano accompanist whose experience working with opera singers and in musical theatre certainly helped to bring the dramatic programme to life.

The concert opened with Bohuslav Martinu’s Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano. Composed in America in 1944 in the same period as his first five symphonies, the first movement is bright and positive and contains the jaunty hints of his native Czechoslovakia. Born and raised in a church tower (his father was the bellringer) and sent to school on funds raised by villagers who enjoyed his violin recitals which he gave from a young age, Martinu preferred to educate himself rather than follow the rigid academic syllabus and was thrown out for “incorrigible negligence”. It was only after travelling to Paris and meeting the composer Albert Roussel, who became his teacher, that Martinu learned how to harness his talent. Public recognition and, importantly, commissions soon followed. Fleeing Paris with the Nazi advance (after several anxious months waiting for transport) he found fame in America where he continued to compose and study (the Albert Einstein Museum contains a copy of Martinu’s Five Madrigal Stanza’s with a handwritten dedication to the physicist, whose publications Martinu is known to have studied). The Adagio carries a more melancholy tone, with the instruments in a staggered entry – piano first, followed by flute then cello taking over first pizzicato before moving to the rich sound of the bow. Martinu wrote; “The artist is always searching for the meaning of life, his own and that of mankind, searching for truth.” The final part of the work begins inquisitively on solo flute, joined soon after by the other instruments. More chaotic than the first movement, but just as jaunty, the three voices move up and down in scale before finding their way, fleeting between introverted and retrospective passages but brought to a close in a more wholesome, progressive mood by the excellent trio who thoroughly deserved the rapturous applause they received. What would Einstein have thought of the performance? “The difficulty is that the really good music cannot be analysed.” he said. Who am I to disagree?!

Next, Laura, Katharine and Peter transported us from the pews of sweltering Southgate to the sultry banks of the Seine with Gaubert’s Pièce Romantique, which Laura explained had been chosen as a light interlude before the final, longer work. Gaubert certainly begins with a sense of ease – a renowned flautist, he allows cello and piano to set the scene before the bird-song of the flute glides in and the trio envelop us with the sounds of a hot summer day. The performers themselves began to arabesque with the flow of the music, leaving us in no doubt that this is most certainly a walk in a French park rather than a stroll through Broomfield – and feeding the ducks is very much off the agenda. While a long way from the frantic intellectual intensity of the earlier piece, the passion is here – although this time the dramatic phrases are resolved in an altogether more expected and familiar way; the sort I hear is best accompanied by a drag on a Gauloises.

Thus revived, we were treated to the grand finale – Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No.1 in D Minor; the only work on the programme that I had heard performed before, but this time the flute replaced the violin as originally scored. Described as one of the composer’s best works, after reviewing the score Schumann declared Mendelssohn to be “the Mozart of the nineteenth century”. The first movement opened with the beautiful rich sound of the cello with the piano beneath and the flute providing an almost operatic descant. The melodic style continued into the second movement which opened with a gentle piano section before the two other instruments took over – with a beautiful duet by the flute and pizzicato cello. The Scherzo was energetic, with precise finger work from all three performers giving a superbly crisp and clear sound – lungs, tongue, fingers and arms were all on the money! Constantly moving with the instruments rolling and weaving around each other, the fast pace was unabating. The piano came to the fore again at the start of the fourth and final movement – passionate and expressive, Peter’s hands were moving so quickly they were almost a blur! The wonderful triumphal conclusion was so rich and orchestral in sound it was hard to believe that there were only three performers on stage!

Despite their hard work, the trio found the energy to return for an encore and sent us off with a Joplin Cascade!

It was a real privilege to hear wonderful music performed in such an intimate setting – a big thank you to Laura, Katharine and Peter for the excellent recital and to Director of Music Harvey Brink for organising the Sesquicentenary Concert Programme.

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