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Distinctly Gallic

Rosanna Ter-Berg and Leo Nicholson,


'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
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.

Leo Nicholson
Leo Nicholson

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 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK


Rosanna Ter-Berg has been selected as a recommended artist for the next Making Music brochure (2017-18 bookings). Making Music is the membership organisation for amateur music making in the UK. The Selected Artists brochure promotes a wide range of young, award-winning artists to the organisation's more than three thousand member groups.

In April she travels to Berlin to The Other Music Academy to take part in an improvisation project with composer and improviser Marcelo Moguilevsky. She is appearing at Musica en Segura, the Spanish Chamber Music Festival, 11-15 May 2016, in Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire with the contemporary ensemble Alluna at Wiltons Music Hall in London on 24 May 2016 and at the Etelsen Music Festival in Germany with Spanish guitarist Rafael Aguirre from 3-5 June 2016.

Further information:

Leo Nicholson will give a series of concerts in the UK and France over the next few months with Rosanna Ter-Berg, Anthony Brown and Anna Noakes. Further information:













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