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Brighton Year-Round 2022

Karen Wong Solo flute, piccolo & baroque flute

Chapel Royal, North Road, Brighton

Genre: Live Music

Venue: Chapel Royal, North Road, Brighton


Low Down

Karen Wong plays solo flute, piccolo & baroque flute in music by Ian Clarke, Pierre-Octave Ferroud, Georg Philipp Telemann, C.P.E. Bach and Rhonda Larson.

Hong Kong-born flautist Ka Wing Karen Wong is devoted in chamber and orchestral playing. She has recently worked with Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Chipping Campden Festival Academy Orchestra, Orion Orchestra and Guildhall Symphony Orchestra. After gaining Masters in Orchestral Artistry (Distinction) at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Karen is pursuing the Artist Diploma, studying flute, piccolo and Baroque flute with Philippa Davies, Sarah Newbold, Ian Clarke, Christopher Green and Lisa Beznosiuk. In 2022, Karen won 1st Prize in the British Flute Society Young Artist Competition and 2nd Prize in Tampere Flute Fest Piccolo Competition. She has given solo performances in Hong Kong, London, Brighton, Eastry, Lewes, Oxford, St Albans, Faversham, Aylesbury, New York and Berlin. In recognition of her academic and music achievements, she received Guildhall School Concert Recital Diploma for exceptional performance and is an Ian Fleming Award holder.




Karen Wong Solo flute, piccolo & baroque flute

Ian Clarke: The Great Train Race

Pierre-Octave Ferroud: Trois pièces pour flûte seule

  1. Bergère captive
  1. Jade
  2. Toan-Yan, la Fête du Double Cinq

Georg Philipp Telemann: Fantasia No. 1 in A major, TWV 40:2

C.P.E. Bach: Sonata in A minor for flute solo, Wq.132

  1. Poco Adagio
  2. Allegro
  • Allegro

Rhonda Larson: Be Still My Soul


We’ve seen Karen Wong recently at St Nicholas in a flute violin and piano recital, often combining baroque (J.S. Bach) with French classic flute (e.g. Philipe Gaubert). Hers was a stratospheric set of performances with Ensembouquet – a variable ensemble with a core of flautist Wong, Violinist Yuriko Matsuda and pianist Mo Suet NG. Here though she performs solo. And it’s not the predictble Debussy syrinx or Varese Density 21.5. And it’s not just the flute Wong plays but the piccolo and baroque flute.

Wong starts with her teacher the justly ubiquitous Ian Clarke (b. 1964): The Great Train Race sounds like one of those mid-sixties heltering films made the time Clarke was born. Clarke deploys a fantastical set of techniques, in addition to circular breath control, which indeed gives this prestissimo piece a sense of spiralling up a Fuseli-inspired staircase to vanishing point. There’s a bounce and brio to it with an unashamed post-romantic rhythm – so not simply a resort to minimalism – that make all of Clarke’s output sound on the cusp of modernity but with a tonal hinterland. It’ a great curtain-raiser and frankly terrifying.

We know more about the consequences of Pierre-Octave Ferroud’s death than his short life (1900-36). Killed in a grisly car-accident he inspired his friend Francis Poulenc to return to catholicism and write liturgical pieces. This is inevitably unjust, as Ferroud became well-known. His 1930 Symphony in A was recorded by Emmanuel Krivine and praised by Prokofiev who liked his opera less. He wrote much in his short life but Trois pièces pour flûte seule date from 1920-21, when he was barely graduating.

A disciple of Florent Schmitt (1870-1958) you can hear that and Charles Koechlin in these pieces. How does that sound? Well think the meatier end of Impressionism. There’s more robust scherzo-sounds, a more identifiable melodic weight, which seems a contradiction in terms, but here, right at the start, there’s an individual palate:. The very French way you can etch out an acidic lyricism really fast, and create in these three pieces –  the last two run together like a kind of scherzo and trio – memorable attractive material. On this evidence with Wong’s playing at an accelerando that hasn’t quite let us down from the Clarke, Wong really soars though those thin reaches of French flute pattern: beautifully acerbic, descriptive, witty things. ‘Bergère captive’ (sounds like shepherd pie, first catch your shepherd) seems like a mild lament in a Les Six joke, captive of love, but is fast. ‘Jade’ as you expect is delicate, elusively sliding, etched in Japanoiserie. ‘Toan-Yan, la Fête du Double Cinq ‘s again a vertiginous spiralling up, a language of exaltation, possibly aspiration too.

We’ve heard a lot of the hugely prolific, long-lived and ever -developing Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) on the flute and particularly recorder and recorder duets. He wrote using the latest classical techniques and the last ten years of his life brought what many consider his finest work, bang up to date.

Here, we’re getting him on the piccolo. So his Fantasia No. 1 in A major, TWV 40:2 – just one movement – sounds different because though you get a bass note A, the whole register is lark-like, emphasising the more delicate side of the robust Telemann’s invention, and shaping the essential andante feel of this work, so it becomes almost Mozartian in its grace.

C.P.E. Bach (1714-88) survived having Telemann as his godfather quite well, though his father J.S. Bach was someone whose influence he had not only to overcome but in himself form the early classical movement with his empfindsamer Stil or ‘sensitive style’. He was a great composer in his own right, far more a pioneer than his father Sebastian, whose own influence ironically from the 1780s began to have an effect on those not yet born when Sebastian died. CPE forged the whole classical era, with Gluck and later Haydn.

Here though in 1747 CPE himself is much under the baroque as oppose to Rocco style he himself forged. His Sonata in A minor for flute solo, Wq.132 is forged from recognisable dance patterns like the Allemande and Gigue, and he’s quite close to the Flute Sonatas of his father.

Wong makes a woody heaven of the baroque bass flute, a dark heavy barrel of an instrument which exudes melancholy in the minor key, and traces its aural architecture in weighty periods and expressive brief pauses. You can feel though the pull away from pure baroque forms to the peripheral expressive palate CPE was beginning to develop in his Berlin prison under Prince Friedrich. Wong marks the breathy weight and doesn’t flinch from a totally different aural palate to say the Teleman..

It was this year his farther was invited to turn up and after a tricksy fugue subject was offered him (in six parts) he was forced to go home to compose A Musical Offering as a monumental response. In her 2021 play Bach & Sons Nina Raine suggests CPE was getting his own back, and it wasn’t the galant composer Prince Friedrich who composed the challenge, but CPE himself.

Not to be confused with the also-American Libby Larssen, Rhonda Larson, another still quite young flute composer, has composed with this remarkable Be Still My Soul something truly different. Frist the title, not in itself unusual, emerges from an unusual place: Sibelius’ 1901 Finlandia, simmering with nationalism though Sibelius demurred. It’s certainly a curiously symphonic piece evoking the orchestra.

Not that you’d know that in its first bars where the flautist actually sings and creates a melodic line almost pitching folk or pop idioms, or a soundtrack. Indeed the full tones of the standard flute Wong plays again are striking for the full heft of its sonority. This isn’t simple sonance and harmony either, and it’s a tribute to Wong she can evoke the depth of this shortish piece.  It’s a layered melodic wave and a memorable top-line that beats throughout the piece in different registers. This really is a remarkable work, and I’d like to know more of Connecticut-based Larsen who hails from ‘the Wild West’ and plays a golden flute, recording several CDs.

Wong’s fast becoming the innovative go-to flute player in the south up to Oxford and Aylesbury. Now based in London and clearly performing in such places as New York and her original home, Hong Kong. Wong’s programming is as adventurous solo as it is in the trio she plays with, and she’s clearly a driving force of new repertoire, often the prelude to a great career.