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Judy Lampert began her recital at St. Matthias with a rather bland “Capriccio” for solo flute by Hungarian composer Franz Weiss, a contemporary of Beethoven, followed by Trois Pieces by Pierre-Octave Ferroud. In this work by Ferroud, Ms. Lampert displayed the agility, articulation and tonal color contrasts that are appropriate to a youthful work by a French composer. Hearing it made me want to hear more substantial works by this twentieth-century composer. Research shows that his contemporaries Francis Poulenc and Sergei Prokofiev admired a symphony that Ferroud wrote shortly before his early death in an auto accident; that may be worth tracking down.
Charles Nicholson’s variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je, maman” for solo flute came next. These are rather pedestrian variations compared to Mozart’s more famous piano variations. History will honor Nicholson more for his contributions to flute construction than to composition; Theobald Boehm based his flute design in part on advances made by Nicholson.
Clarinetist Jody Smith joined Ms. Lampert for two short works: Paul Lacome’s Passepied and Friedrich August Kummer’s Duo No 1. The musicians displayed excellent intonation and coordination in both works. The Kummer work, originally for cello and piano, worked better in transcription than did the Lacome, written originally for flute and bassoon. In the Lacome, the ostinato as played in the clarinet’s lower register seemed obtrusive.
Three selections from Gary Schocker’s Walking Songs for solo piccolo came next, followed by an Irish folk tune “Contented I am” arranged by Lawrence Trott for piccolo. Mindy Kaufman was a friend of my son’s at Eastman School of Music, and upon graduating in 1979, she won the New York Philharmonic piccolo audition and has played with the New York Phil ever since. Kaufman is my “gold standard” for piccolo intonation, and I am afraid Ms. Lampert fell short of that standard. Many flute players have the same problem; it is a pesky little instrument, easily wandering off pitch.
Ms. Lampert returned to solo flute for “Sidewalk,” a piece by Hilary Taggart that was the last of this string of eight rather light works. I felt I had gorged on a tray of hors d’oeuvres before the principal courses of a meal, but two substantial works came next. The entrée was “Winter Spirits” by Katherine Hoover. This is a haunting piece that demonstrates Native American influence, and Ms. Lampert made the most of the allusions. I was reminded of hearing Hopi flute music in New Mexico. There was a shape, a motivation, a direction to the playing that had not been demonstrated in the lighter repertoire. This work was the high point of the afternoon’s offerings for solo flute.
We finished the entrée and it was time for the meat-and-potatoes course. One of Ms. Lampert’s private students is high school junior Priscilla Boyer, who joined her to play the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s Incidental Music to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as transcribed for two flutes. All of the best characteristics that had come to the fore in the Hoover work were now doubled; the two flutists meshed in romantic rhapsody. I expected Puck himself to leave off his antics just to listen to his music.
A solo woodwind concert gives no respite to the musician’s embouchure. (When an accompanist is involved, a wind player gets passages of rest while the keyboard plays on, but not so in a solo recital.) This concert was therefore brief, barely an hour in length. It ended with dessert; a work by American composer William Schuman whimsically entitled “XXV Opera Snatches.” I made hash marks on my program to register each new theme I detected (some are about one measure in length). Perhaps some of the other thirty music lovers in the audience caught the other two, but I only got to twenty-three.