FringeReview UK 2019
Sussex Flutes Nicole Le Clerq, Victoria Hancox, Anne Hodgson, Sue Gregg play a version of Debussy’s Clair de Lune,
Telemann’s Quartet in D minor, Barry Mills’ Three Pieces, and three South American arrangements.
There aren’t many regions boasting an ensemble of four flutes. Sussex Flutes commission new works as well as exploring the rich baroque repertoire for this combination. They’ve made or revived beguiling adaptations of Romantic standards as well as truffling out some rare specialities from that period too. It’s as if we’ve always known a world where four flutes draw in a world.
Nicole Le Clerq, Victoria Hancox, Anne Hodgson and Sue Gregg are established enough to draw in composers eager to write for them too.
The adaptation of Debussy’s iridescent Clair de Lune is extraordinary for suggesting layers that exist in the piano original, and cross-layers only hinted at; as well as some harmonies you can only imagine. These always transpose to its upper range where the flutes’ timbre lives.
Telemann’s Quartet in D minor from his 1724 Tafelmusik is written for two flutes flute-or-recorder and continuo, so that’s easy – Le Clerq reaches for a smaller flute and the continuo’s easy to integrate and how beguiling this is, music written by a German master second only to Bach and Handel in his time, and not second hen it comes to such chamber music. The Allegro points a delicacy and wit that the following movements amplify: layered harmonies, pastel counterpoint, and a pastoral mode th’s tinged with the D minor melancholy of the work, one of Telemann’s most profound in this collection. The finale’s more contrapuntal with rapid interplays, but the whole passes in a dream-like envelope. Superb.
Barry Mills has developed a language of delicacy out of astringent modernism that’s post-tonal and superfine in textures. Think Toru Takemitsu for a rough guide, but his melodic kernel is decidedly somewhere one might say west of Michael Finnissy. With a tonal palate close to four flutes this combo is clearly a close fit.
His Three Pieces are named and evoke – as often – quotations from folk tunes or local references. ‘Day Unfolds’ is a wamr rustling landscape where the deeper recesses of flute sonance emerge from bass notes to a more vigorous, almost chatty day. ‘Raintrees and Rainfall’ evokes folk song – did I her the Volga Boatmen? But more, it replicates a pattern of gentle raindrops and a penumbra, rainbow-like or intensely refractedgreenery. There’s a strong ecological awareness in Mills’ aesthetics, and some of this at least seems audible: the fragility of eco-systems, the endurance of nurture. The final is more airy. ‘Lochobar’ inject a more bracing current to a work steeped in cross-hatchings, delicate but not overly demanding effects, and a language that invites and shyly withdraws at the same time.
The three South American arrangements almost played themselves on a more primal palate. ‘Road to Peleo’ enjoyed long overlapping lines between the flautists, ‘Maringora at Night’ is a teasing nocturne, full of nightlife too. Finally ‘Devil May Care’ is a kind of whacky jig, full of folk-rhythms, though it’ not clear from where. a really invigorating send-off and an attractive contrast to more refined fare. But these pieces too own delicacies here that wholly counter-intuitively enrich the pieces.