Rosanna Ter-Berg and Leo Nicholson,
heard by MIKE WHEELER
'Where would twentieth-century French music be without the flute?' I wondered, after flute and piano duo Rosanna Ter-Berg and Leo Nicholson's recital for Derby Chamber Music (Multi-Faith Centre, Derby University, 1 April 2016). Only three of the works on the programme were by native French composers, but a distinctly Gallic air spilled over into at least some of the rest.
We began with Dutilleux's early Sonatine, with the two players finding a supple, luminous quality in the first movement, balancing the caprice and the melancholy of the second, and illuminating the toccata-like third with a dynamic range from forceful to secretive whisper. Four of Debussy's Six Epigraphes Antiques followed, in Anthony Summers' skilful transcription for flute and piano. After a supple, fluid 'Pour Invoquer Pan', the plaintive quality of 'Pour un Tombeau sans Nom' was neatly counterpointed against the pirouettes of 'Pour la Danseuse aux Crotales', and the contrast between free-flow and rhythmic definition in 'Pour l'Egyptienne'. In Lowell Liebermann's Sonata No 1, the extended first movement saw a steady accumulation of energy after a subdued start, and with their intensity and concentration, the players showed how to use the numerous brief silences to maintain tension.
Rosanna Ter-Berg. Click on the image for higher resolution
It's no wonder flautists have taken to Ian Clarke's Zoom Tube. A playful work-out for unaccompanied flute, full of extended techniques including multiphonics and vocal effects, it got a suitably exuberant performance. In the Suite Paysanne Hongroise, arranged by Paul Arma from all but one of Bartók's 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs for piano, Ter-Berg and Nicholson moved easily around the fluctuations of pace and character, from soulful and stately to playful and frisky. Casella's Sicilienne et Burlesque is part of that huge repertoire of test pieces commissioned by the Paris Conservatoire. After a splendidly laid-back Sicilienne, the Burlesque kicked up its heels, with Nicholson teasing out the echoes of Stravinsky's Petrushka in the piano part.
Finally to that archetypal French flute piece, Poulenc's Sonata. After easing us in gently, Ter-Berg and Nicholson had fun with the knockabout sections of the outer movements, while bringing perfect poise to the passages, particularly in the second movement, which reflect that specifically French quality of tristesse, which often seems more subtly nuanced than just straightforward sadness. It was the kind of performance that makes you realise all over again what a complex personality Poulenc was.
Copyright © 9 April 2016