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Outstanding Performances

Susan Milan and Andrew Ball at London's Wigmore Hall,
reviewed by BILL NEWMAN


The knowledge that the gorgeous flautist Susan Milan was back in town to give another recital [21 January 2007, Wigmore Hall, London UK] undoubtedly caused even the most confirmed cynics to smile broadly, lower their heads and kneel in homage. She has only to saunter on stage with her demeanour of Old World Charm, turn to her partner -- in this particular instance the completely musical and totally dependable Andrew Ball -- do a final limber up (tuning, that is!), smile at her instrument, then at the audience (in that order), and away we go ...

Part one consisted of four pieces: the second featured five -- one more if you include the encore. A British Music extravaganza by then, up-and-coming composers born, with five exceptions, when I was still working in the record industry (1955-75). More importantly, the particular compositions represented here can be listened to as pure music and enjoyed for the composition techniques displayed. Needless to say, their communicative skills are enhanced by the performing gifts and insights of the two participants, who each enjoy fully the repertoire they perform, then pass it on to their many students. I cannot claim knowledge or liking for much written since the Millennium -- my loss and many other younger music enthusiasts' gains, but this has never prevented me from listening! Susan Milan, on the other hand, claims a much wider sympathy, knowledge and understanding. Her kinship and Art of Performance extends to some authoratative programme notes.

Winter Music (1950) by Richard Rodney Bennett (born 1936) is one of many works for flute. His talents and popularity feature writing music for well-loved films and composing orchestral, vocal and instrumental music for today's leading performers. My loveable memory was listening to and witnessing his piano accompaniment to Eartha Kitt while she reclined on top of the piano lid. She was busy ruffling his hair! Melodic music within a tone row is a typically attractive RRB invention.

My joy of listening to the music of Arthur Butterworth (born 1923) came about as a regular taper of Matinées Musicales (now discontinued) on BBC Radio 3. Also an orchestral brass section player and conductor, his piece Aubade (1973) leans toward the Impressionists Debussy and Ravel.

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Copyright © 10 March 2007 Bill Newman, Edgware UK


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