Brighton Year-Round 2019
Anne Allen and Charles Matthews gave a flute and piano recital comprising Bach’s Flute Sonata in E minor BWV1034, Vivaldi’s Goldfinch Concerto in D major Op 10/3, Edward MacDowell’s In Autumn Op 51/4, Cécile Chaminade’s Autumne Op 35 Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion, ‘Summertime’, from Gershwin’s 1935Porgy and Bess as encore.
Already an established duo with CDs to their credit, flautist Anne Allen and pianist Charles Matthews gave a classically-profiled recital with inbuilt encores; then add their own. Matthews is attuned to subtlety and bravura pitching an ideal collaboration and enjoys his own solo.
Allen’s clean flute sound also blooms particularly well in the Chapel Royal acoustic. An ideal recording venue were it not for the drills that seem to attend every church acoustic: ad the traffic. Allen’s sound-world has a creamy top edge but underlying this is the structure of clean projection to offset romantic and lyric. Ideal flute-playing then.
First the ideal pitching of J. S. Bach’s E minor Flute Sonata BWV1034, in the classic slow-fast alternation where the language seems almost rococo anticipating that of his son C.P.E. Bach, though written in his 1717-23 Cothen period when C P E Bach was a toddler. Allen and Matthews employ a floaty contrapuntalism, never losing sight of the way the music breathes through its architecture and allowing expressiveness to taper through its four movements. The Adagio ma non tanto shows this, quickening to the pounce of the Allegro. There’s affecting stillness in the slow Sarabande-like moments in the Andante, and a predictably bright Telemann-like business elsewhere in the final Allegro, but with Bach’s expressive amplitude.
Continuing with the baroque there’s that flautist standby, Vivaldi’s Goldfinch Concerto in bright D major Op 10/3 for flute and piano reduction. The twittering opening – staccato embouchure in a rippling run – modulates to a garden of finches so the contrapuntal baroque gestures become programme music. The lyrical lull soars with sparse piano accompaniment, like the original basso continuo. It’s quite hypnotic. The frantic call-and-refrain of the finale is scintillating.
Matthews created a piano Liszt-trained Edward MacDowell (1861-1908) is known for his Piano Concerto No. 2 and a To a Wild Rose. His In Autumn like that piece from Woodland Sketches Op 51/4 is another gems. More like a quick march and brisker-than-normal for MacDowell it allows a middle section to hint at MacDowell’s nervously off-beat melodic gift which occasionally burst into the marvellous schmaltz of his Rose.
Cécile Chaminade’s Autumne Op 35 is best known in its original piano incarnation but the left-hand melody can transcribe well to flute and the whole produces a delightful miniature – just the thing Chaminade (1857-1944) wrote elsewhere with her Concertino. It seems designed for the flute with its asprting opening phrase and downward glissandi and turbulent middle section produce dramatic pressures on the flute tone, with a piercing lyricism as opposed to piano heft. Should be I the repertoire.
Astor Piazzolla (1921-92) was told by the great teacher Nadia Boulanger to concentrate on his gift for tango and stop imitating European idioms. The first movement of Histoire du Tango – called ‘Bordello 1900’ is one of many of his compositions adapted for flute, and ends the recital with a smoky, moody upbeat.
But… harking back after all the autumn was naturally ‘Summertime’, from Porgy and Bess, Gershwin’s 1935 evergreen melody long a gift for flautists, so the creamy exposed haze of a line etches the last glimmer of warmth into wintry memories. Again the acoustic speaks beautifully for this kind of playing.
Allen and Matthews are superb, stylish recitalists, deserving of the kind of exposure they receive at concert venues like this, and more.