Flute & Piano Recital at NCSA
by Peter Perret
Tadeu Coelho, flute, and Allison Gagnon, piano, presented an outstanding faculty recital in the acoustically excellent Watkins Hall on the campus of the North Carolina School of the Arts on Tuesday evening, May 17. The choice of works programmed was eclectic, varying from early Mozart to the world premiere performance of Lawrence Dillon's Sonata: Motion (2004).
Coehlo (coil-you), whose name appropriately translates from Portuguese as "rabbit," is a captivating musician. His tone and vibrato are warm and seductive, his breath control unbelievable, and his nimble finger technique brilliant. With his knees bent as he squinted at his music – like a batter facing a pitcher – Coelho hit musical homers, much to the delight of the generous audience of admirers.
Allison Gagnon (rhymes with canyon), his musical foil, is a delightful musician with a sure technique and a canny sense of balance. Leading when called for and subtle throughout, the Canadian pianist is an excellent musician and cherished member of the NCSA faculty.
The Mozart Sonata (F major, KV.12) is a pre-teen work, charming and simple, yet far from naïve. I was surprised by the amount of imitation and counterpoint between the piano part and the flute. Also surprising was the amount of chromaticism in the minuet movement.
The Mozart was followed by the program's only work for solo flute (there are many in the flute repertory, ranging from Bach to Varèse), the "Improviso" (1974) by Brazilian composer Osvaldo Lacerda (b.1929). Lacerda studied with Camargo Guarnieri (see below) and followed his mentor in promulgating the Brazilian nationalistic style initiated by Heitor Villa-Lobos. Interestingly, Lacerda studied one summer with Aaron Copland (champion of the American nationalistic school) and Vittorio Giannini, founding chancellor of the NCSA.
The "Improviso" is a moody work filled with long tapering phrases. I have never before heard long, low pianissimo notes played either as long or as softly as Coelho played that night – breathtaking, in every sense of the word.
Aaron Copland's Duo (1974), written in memory of William Kincaid, the legendary flutist of the Golden Age of the Philadelphia Orchestra, is a soulful and poetic work, redolent of the fourths and fifths that Copland savored, and enlivened with occasional hints of jazzy syncopations. Especially effective was the bi-tonal second movement ("Poetic, somewhat mournful"), which built to a powerful and moving climax.
After intermission, we were treated to the world première of Lawrence Dillon's appealingly impressionistic work Sonata: Motion, whose movements' titles provide a roadmap of the composition: "Motion/Emotion," "Emotion/Commotion," and "Commotion/Motion." Dillon (b.1959) teaches composition at the NCSA and has already written extensively for the flute. He is clearly at ease with the instrument.
The first movement is a study in contrasts – the low pedal point of the piano against the clear flute in the mid-range, and rhythmic punctuations against sustained passages – ending in what seemed to be a ternary counterpoint. The second movement is full of interesting effects, including humming into the flute while playing and hushed muted piano with more incredibly soft playing by Coelho. The last movement gives way to a very jazzy bass line in the piano while the flute is inclined to be more chromatic. A slow bluesy section is interrupted by baroque ornaments in the flute, leading to a pregnant pause that prepares the way for a return of the start of the movement. This is an enigmatic yet enjoyable piece I would like to hear again.
The concert closed with another Brazilian work, the Sonatina (1945) by Camargo Guarnieri (1907-90). The three-movement work, reminiscent at times of Hindemith in a good humor, was a technical tour de force for both players, with wildly large intervals in the flute over simple left hand accompaniment in the piano. A Satie-like second movement, with more incredible pianissimo notes in the highest register of the flute, yielded to a sort of perpetual motion with typical Brazilian rhythms to conclude.
As if all this weren't enough, Coelho and Gagnon treated us to a short set of brilliant virtuoso variations on a theme of Wilhelm Popp. These were all mousse and champagne, delightfully and brilliantly executed!