FringeReview UK 2019
Meera Maharaj and Dominic Degavino play rare, exciting repertoire for flute and piano. Vitali’s Chaconne in G minor, Joseph Jongen’s Flute Sonata Op 77, and finally Andy Scott’s Salt of the Earth.
Meera Maharaj and Dominic Degavino are an exciting young duo – both studying for their Masters – playing rare, exciting repertoire for flute and piano. Three pieces indelibly impressed their own qualities and these kinetic soloists.
Vitali’s Chaconne in G minor is one of those monumental baroque edifices here cut down a bit and aerated with the flute and piano version lightening the texture of the original violin and harpsichord. Maharaj is an immensely active soloist, full fo charge and élan, with a fine sense of detail and micro-phrasing. This was hypnotic and a fine curtain-raider. Degavino is an active, agile pianist, fining down and playing out as required.
The main work was Joseph Jongen’s Flute Sonata Op 77 from 1923. Jongen (1873-1953) is best known for his organ music – he’s part of that next-last Franco-Belgian organ-playing generation (the last would be Duruflé, Langlais, Messaien, Alain thirty years on). So we’ve got an impressionist composer who wrote a lot more widely and like Widor from the generation before turned to flute and piano. Think a more solid Debussy mixed with Roussel and a dash of Ravel in the detailed harmonies.
It opens imposingly on the piano a little bit like Ravel’s Left-hand concerto (as yet unwritten). The flute comes in with an arabesque figure and we’re away in this Prelude in a kind of free fantasia. The flute as Carl Nielsen noted, lives in Arcadia. The strong melodies and runs of this infectious movement set up a climax and then a superbly catchy scherzo ‘trés anime’ with a dotted rhythm, two sets of tie-notes, two then two, that memorably sets off the flurrying flute melodies between. It’s followed by a haunted slow movement again ‘modéré and a kind of tarantella Finale, in fact a Gigue played Allegro with a supremely active flourishing up and down with an engaging middle section, more reflective and full of declamatory phrases echoing the way the opening movement works. It ends thrillingly.
Andy Scott’s encore piece the sassy Salt of the Earth is vertiginous, tricky and exhilarating – particularly breathless was the scurrying finale. Maharaj’s breath-control was one flautist remarked, was enviable. Stunning.