RECITAL FOR FLUTE & HARP
"Since time immemorial, flute and harp have forment a pair. No sorrow is too great that it cannot be soothed by the flute with the Theban har"; Hector Berlioz L'Enfance du Christ, Op. 25 (1854)
Compositions for flute and harp have in fa, a rather special background. Starting with Mozart's Concerto KV 299, a universal masterpiece, and although the two instruments have already been associated for a long Lime in the musical mind of the general public, this ( atcgory does not number many originals works; the XIXth century made only a few contributions in the form of sonne Sonatas or "Fautasies", composers of impressionist era preferring more elaborate chamber music (quinLets for flute, harp and strings trio). Modern music bas added only a few truly representalive pieces. And nevertheless... thanks te, the chamn of its tonality and perhaps also, indeed because of the numerous arrangements which have replaced the absence of a repertoire, this duo bas been undeniably successful since its inception. From the post-war period onwards, all leading artists have regularly performed flute and harp recitals, and severai prestigious duos - Jean-Pierre Rampal and Lily Laskine, Christian Lardé and Marie Claire Jamet tc, name but these - have ennobled this type of formation. Scholarly music in a popular form? Here indeed is an experience which bas frequently been proven so positive. The programme that Christine lcart and Philippe Bernold offer us today, using scores fronn widely differing periods and styles, is really a romantic journey where each stage offers a new aspect of instrumental refinement.
This appears in its most classical form in the Sonata in c minor WoO 23 by Ludwig Spohr (1784-1859). A violonist with an immense reputation, Spohr was married te, Dorette Scheidler, an accomplished harpist. It was for the two of them that Spohr wrote seven Sonatas, a Fantasy and two Double-Concertos with orchestral accompaniment. But one may almost consider this work as "authentic" in the sense that Spohr had himself planned three of his other Sonatas (Op. 113, 114 and 115) to be for flute instead of the violin. The form is unusual and consists of two fast movements preceded by short slow and expressive phases. The first introduction, lyrical and with dramatic accents, leads into an assertive Allegro, which nevertheless bas virtuosity without any excesses, and a delicate, melodious flow. The second, which is shorter, continues up to a dance theme ait the finale. With a wink at the past, it is aiso typical salon music, engaging and extremely refined, which quickly delighted ail levels of society.
Other short pieces - which represent the uncores played in this concert by Philippe Bernold and Christine Icart - take us back to the Opera. The Italian Bel Canto is represented by the Andante con Variazioni by Gicoacchino Rossini (1792-1868). The audiences in the salons adored this music to such an extent that ail the leading lyric composers had to create sonne instrumental exceptions here and there. Here, Rossini composes these few variations on the famous air "Di Tanti Palpiti" from his opera "Tancredi". As a gentleman, he leaves the opening to the harp... The flute follows on before starting the passage in the minor key. The retum to the theme then brings in a fast Coda. Too short? Perhaps, but it was a question of respecting fashion.
Next is the famous Scène des Champs-Elysées from "Orphée" by Christoph-Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) which needs no presentation. A favourite encore for concert performers - and for only the greatest among thern, because it requires sensitivity and an exceptional sense of style - this piece is one of the most significant and best-written in the whole répertoire for flute and orchestra. Its adaptation with the harp underlines mystery and nostaigia even more.
The Introduction and Rondo by FriedrichDaniel Kuhlau (1786-1832) also belongs to this type of composition, much in vogue with amateur musicians and the bourgeoisie. It concerns the second of three concertante Fantasies for piano and flute (Op. 94, 98 and 99) based on themes from Le Colporteur ("The Peddier") by Georges Onsiow Il 784 - 1853), published by Bôhme in Leipzig in 1830. Whereas the other two adopted a varied air format, Op. 98 takes the form of a simple Rondo from the choral motif Ah! quand il gèle, sans se lasser ("Ah! when it freezes, without ti ring") - an air which was certainly unknown even to the keenest opera fan, but which alone proves Onslow's sensitivity and melodious vein. Onslow himself was a disciple of Anton Reicha, and his chamber music is aiso worthy of attention. An expert such as Kuhlau could henceforward only fall under his spell... The theme in e minor is full of charm and melancholy, and is the basis of a second melodic cell in the major key. The lyrical flow of the work alternates as it should with brilliant, catchy passages.
The Fantasy Op. 24 by Camille Saint-Saëns carries us into a different world. We are in Paris in 1907... but the romantic atmosphere is still there, tinged by a faste for the spectacular and the most sensual of musical pleasures. Saint-Saëns, as clever a "fantasist" as he is an inspired musician, is one of those composers who seem to draw upon early sources but who nevertheless represent the best of their own period. Based on descriptive pieces and very melodious - who bas not heard of "The Carnival of the Animais", his "Havanaise" for violin or his 5th piano Concerto ("Egyptian") he did not however refute the impressionist influence ait the end of his life. This is quite clear in the Fantasy, originally composed for violin and harp, where one finds some touches of his "exotic" and such demonstrative talent in parallel. The work itself, which is cyclic, consists of a number of linked passages, with different ambiances but does not give way to the convenience of abrupt contrast. The free, dreamy introduction is followed by a warm Allegro and then a brilliant passage in the form of a scherzo. Next there is a surprising section in an old style, where the flute continually embellishes a bass ostinato, achieving the height of passion. But there is no concession in a virtuose coda : on the contrary, the return to the initial motif leads to a calm ending.
Denis Verroust La Traversière- French Flute Association