Music Review: Vermonters reign in New Year’s Eve concertBy Jim LoweMark Collier / Staff Photo
Composer David Gunn with flutist Laurel Ann Maurer at their Barre home.
MONTPELIER — While First Night should have been happening Monday, a small crowd enjoyed what turned out to be a first-rate flute and piano recital by relative newcomers to the area.
Barre flutist Laurel Ann Maurer and pianist Claire Black, who lives in Underhill, proved to be fine professional musicians in their program “Baroque and Blue,” which had also been presented in Burlington on Saturday and Stowe on Sunday. Music ranged from J.S. Bach to Claude Bolling, but it was a work by Barre composer David Gunn, Maurer’s husband, that proved most compelling — and the audience’s clear favorite.
“Forbidden Flute,” written in 2004 before Gunn met Maurer, begins with a witty melody that is reminiscent of movie music depicting Middle Eastern bazaars. From there, it goes all over the place with seemingly familiar themes, demanding real virtuosity from both the flutist and pianist.
In “Forbidden Flute,” Gunn’s trademark wit does not mask the depth of this musically powerful and most rewarding work. Maurer played with a warm lyricism as well as comfortable virtuosity, matched by Black’s clarity and natural musicality. It was a beautiful performance of beautiful music.
Exquisite, though, was the evening’s encore, Louis Moyse’s “Siciliane (for Shimmie),” written just before the composer died in 2007 at 94 in Montpelier. This little gem, dedicated to Moyse’s dog, was hauntingly lyrical, sentimental but never trite, in a way the French do so well. Maurer and Black played with sensitivity, making it a truly touching experience.
Times have certainly changed when the audience favorites are by Vermont composers. Maurer, who has performed and taught extensively in New York City and Utah, has been championing new music since her student days. Black, who hails from upstate New York and graduated from Cleveland Institute of Music (where Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson now teach), has extensive chamber music experience — and it showed.
Absolutely charming was the duo’s performance of the early Classical Sonata in G Major (“Hamburg”) by Carl Phillip Emmanuel (C.P.E.) Bach, one of Johann’s sons. Particularly in the opening Allegretto, Maurer’s articulation gave the music a lilt that made the music sing, but with a charming lightness. Black too had a light touch that was most effective, and the final Rondo-Presto was light and lively.
Great fun was P.D.Q. Bach’s “Sonata Piccola for Piccolo and Keyboard,” a hilarious spoof of Baroque music that even includes a touch of John Phillip Sousa. In addition to hamming it up perfectly, they managed its technical difficulties with aplomb.
Claude Bolling’s 1973 Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano is a charming crossover work, somewhat superficial, sometimes beautiful and always charming — which this duo happily delivered.
Least successful was J.S. Bach’s E Major Sonata, BWV 1035, for flute and continuo. The two slow movements were awkward rhythmically in both flute and keyboard parts, and lacked the lyricism so abundant in the rest of the program. Still, the two fast movements were well articulated and well played.
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