Dueling Flutes

Camerata Pacifica. At Victoria Hall, Friday, February 17.

Classical flute players — at least the Irish ones — are really rock stars. After a suitably rock-like slight delay, the three men who opened the Camerata Pacifica program on Friday arrived dressed in all black. Wordlessly the dueling flautists, Adrian Spence and Colin Fleming, took their positions opposite one another in front of Warren Jones’s piano. The piece they played, Franz Doppler’s Valse di Bravura, Op. 33, was full of the kind of technical virtuosity and showmanship that would make any guitar god green with envy. The dance between the two instruments became a fascinating, escalating pattern of intertwining and repeating lines, by turns lingering and faun-like, then fast and clipped. Fleming was then left alone in front to play the Sonata for Flute and Piano in F Major of François Devienne, accompanied by Warren Jones. Written earlier than the Doppler, and less dramatically varied in its effects, the Devienne sonata still left many opportunities for the players to demonstrate subtle mastery. Fleming was a wonder, his perfect posture rendering him a light-footed column of air, shifting and swirling at the service of the music. Next up was a solo spot for the extraordinary Warren Jones. His recitation of the lyrics from the Liebestod of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde was dramatically intense, but then Jones sat down at the piano and erased every memory except for that of the music, wringing magnificent effects out of his instrument and demonstrating why the Liszt transcriptions are a crucial addition to the modern repertoire. At the end of the piece Jones held the audience’s attention through the incredibly long sustain of the final note and beyond, into the silent abyss of Wagner’s tragic night. The second part of the evening’s program began with Catherine Leonard and Warren Jones essaying the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Minor, Opus 105 of Robert Schumann. The pair likened the piece to a scene from All About Eve — the moment when Bette Davis as Margo Channing warns the group, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” With these performers the ride was far from bumpy in any literal sense, yet their prediction that the final movement, “Lebhaft,” would reveal some of the psychological strife that accompanied Schumann’s later years was right. The stormy oscillation between near-baroque artfulness and Romantic passion was rendered with lightning swiftness and thorough musicality. It’s a privilege to come at the dark distinctions of Schumann’s composition with these two as guides. Spence and Fleming returned to render another brilliant duet by Doppler, and the wild night of the flute was over.

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