A Pale View of the Hills

Flautist Linda Holland is an artist of the pleasant surprise. In
this concert, as in the Current Sounds concerts, the appearance of
a contemporary composition on the program presents no occasion for
resistance. After the shock of the first few bars wears off, we
realize we actually like what we are hearing, and we can sit back
and enjoy the piece and still feel virtuous for having sat through
something indisputably “modern.”

The concert began with Bach, Pergolesi, and Brahms, and it ended
with Ravel, but on either side of the intermission we had two
distinctly contemporary works: William G. Harbinson’s Sonata for
Flute and Piano from 2003, and Holland’s own Toot Suite for two
flutes and piano from the same year.

Dr. William G. Harbinson is dean of the Mariam Cannon Hayes
School of Music at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.
His Sonata, performed by Holland and pianist Anne Weger, is a
thoroughly American work, a la Roy Harris and George Antheil, with
its first and third movements giddy and brilliant, all a-flutter
with good will, and its central movement a soaring, wind-swept
rhapsody. All of it sparkles and shines.

Holland’s work has a whimsical title, but the whimsy is confined
to the second movement mambo, which kept whispering “Hernando’s
Hideaway” in my ear. The first movement Pavane seemed to partake
equally of a baroque worldview and a romantic yearning after the
impossible. Holland and Weger were joined by flautist Caitlin
Boruch and they all three kept me spellbound from start to finish.
The opening work was Bach’s Sonata in B Minor performed by Holland,
with Josephine Brummel providing harpsichord continuo. It was very
nicely done.

Then the exquisite soprano Agatha Carubia sang Pergolesi’s
heart-rending Salve Regina over the thoughtful, attentive piano of
Seungah Seo.

Josephine Brummel took us up to the Harbinson with two pieces by
Brahms, a lyrical Intermezzo and a swaggering Ballade. Brahms makes
a thrilling poet but an unconvincing bravo—his strut is a little
too precisely executed.

To close, Weger and Brummel played a four-handed version of
Ravel’s Mother Goose. The performance was enthralling, the piece
thought-provoking. Ravel invents a good deal of Poulenc with this
piece (Satie invented the rest), and since I find the composer a
fascinating enigma, I very much enjoyed the structural revelations
of the arrangement.

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