Sunday, November 30, 2014

Morelia Music Festival's Magical Flutes

Mind-expanding. the phrase may be trite but  the saturating effect of hearing four flute-players perform contemporary and Baroque music on a variety of flutes was anything but banal. The four flautists were Alejandro Escuer from Mexico, Claire Chase and Camilla Hoitenga from the United States and Giovanni Antonioni from Italy.

If you went to Luminico in the Juarez earlier this month, you saw and heard Alejandro Escuer playing his flutes. Yes, plural--nowadays flute players play several, often changing from one to another during a single piece. Or to put it another way as Escuer does. says "My breath is my instrument.
Playing a long flute wiith notes an octave lower
than on a usual C flute. (FMM photo)

When asked whether children like hearing contemporary music, the extroverted, innovative musician-academic grinned and mimed their dancing. He went on to explained that the flute is an expressive instrument similar to the human voice, He reminded us that flutes and drums are instruments, which go well together, are the instruments with the longest history and are found in every culture. (in face although he didn't say this, archaeologists think a pierced bone may be a flute dating from prehistoric times.)

Ror the launching of Escuer's new CD  Flying, composer-musician Rodney Sigal, music critic ]Juan Arturo Brennan and Sergio Vela (for a while the director of the Cervantino, now the Morelia festival's director) spoke, followed by the flautist playing four of the pieces, including one by Gabriela Ortiz, composer of a piece Ana Cervantes' commissioned for Vuelos de la Monarca.

Camilla Hoitenga and Claire Chase played works by the Festival's honoree, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho the concluding weekend of the Festival. Saariaho achieves with percussion and harp. At her press conference, when asked how she composes, Saariaho the composer explained that she writes from her imagination, of course using the thorough knowledge of instruments learned during her training.

I never imagined I would hear work by a Finnish composer not named Jan Sibelius..

Claire Chase, musical entrepeneur
as well as flute-player
Chase's ensemble ICE (international Contemporary Ensemble), played Saariaho's Terrestre, along with several other of her pieces. Six Japanese Gardens for percussion and synthesizer mesmerized me, as did a piece for at least a dozen percussion instruments.

Camilla Hoitenga (Saariaho says Hoitenga knows
just how to play her pieces
The composer who worked closely with Camilla Hoitenga on parts of Aile du Songe, the concerto for flute and orchestra, which she then dedicated to Hoitenga. The flute player,.wearing a dark blue gauzy dress perfect for the bird-themed Aile du Songe, performed Saariaho's concerto with the National Symphony for the first part of the closing concert.

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as the final part struck me as as incongruous as pairing a butterfly with an elephant. I had difficulty shifting gears, but I admit the Festival director and his committee knew how to end the Festival with a bang.

Stepping back to the earlier concert of the final day,  recorder player Giovanni Antonini with the Italian Barroque orquestra Il Giardino Armonico received a standing ovation from chamber orchestra's delighted audience in the colonial patio of the Palacio Municipal. The ensemble at last responded to their chanting. I wouldn't have known from listening to the encore with closed eyes, but with them open I could see how tired Antonioni was.When I checked the age of this youthful-looking grey-haired musician, I found he was seventy-two. Flute playing isn't for sissies, although when the brother was twelve, he quit because some boys said that it was..
The group also included srings (one each),
harpsichord and triomba (above)


For me, the frosting on the cake was meeting Juan Arturo Brennan who used to write the OSUG program notes until, as he said, he was fired. If he were asked, it was clear to me he would love to start writing them again.

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