A flautist walks into a bar

magic-flutes_featured3Last night’s Soundstreams Koerner Hall presentation; Magic Flutes was an interesting experience.  Aside from interesting (mostly) contemporary flute pieces it was very much an experiment in different ways of staging a concert.  I’m all for breaking down the conventions of Mahlerian solemnity and I think experimentation is great.  It’s in the nature of taking risks though that some things don’t quite work.

The main work on the program was Anna Höstman’s The Pied Piper, for flute and soprano, drawing on texts from various versions of the story.  Performed by Leslie Newman and Carla Huhtanen, it was staged throughout the evening with the individual movements separated by the other works on the program; an interesting idea.  Each movement was presented from a different part of the hall; again a good idea.  Presenting the third movement at various points in the bar during the intermission was less successful.  Most people had no idea it was happening, the bar was noisy and the acoustics nightmarish.  For one part I was within touching distance of Carla and I could still barely hear anything beyond the background racket.  The parts in the hall were presented with the house lights right down which made having a printed text in the program a bit pointless.  Staged textual works need surtitles.  It was an interesting work.  I’d like to hear it again, or rather actually hear it in full.

The rest of the program, presented more conventionally but nonetheless with the lights right down was enjoyable but confusing.  I would have like to know what I was hearing but it was too dark to read the program, let alone the notes.  There was a wild piece by Michael Colgrass played by Marina Piccinini, a lyrical Debussy Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp (Maria again, Teng Li and Erica Goodman) and a very interesting Robert Aitken piece, Plainsong, played by the composer which stretched the technical limits of what a flute can do.

After the interval the brilliantly punky Claire Chase gave us Philip Glass’ Piece in the Shape of a Square in which prerecorded Claire is accompanied by live Claire.  This was followed by Toro Takemitsu’s Toward the Sea; a Greenpeace “Save the Whales” commission for flute and harp, played by Robert Aitken and Erica Goodman.  Last on the program we got Jolivet’s Suite en Concert for flute (Patrick Gallois) and percussion quartet.  There was also an encore featuring all the flautists but I didn’t catch what it was.

It was an enjoyable night and an interesting experiment.  I do think though that if one is going to darken the auditorium surtitles for vocal works are a must and with unfamiliar rep a few words of introduction would not be out of place.

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