Artist Series Concerts' Soirée Series opened Oct. 13 with flute and piano Romantic masterpieces.
The Artist Series Concerts opened its Soirée Series on Oct. 13 with “The Romantic Flute,” featuring flutist Taylor Irelan and pianist Andrea Feitl.
For several years now, the Serenoa Lakes residence of John Fischer and Jim Weissenborne has been a most fitting venue for this series of intimate performances. Their large living/music room, which contains three grand pianos and two full organ consoles, still has room for an audience of some 75 eager listeners.
These soirees are more than just musical events because upon arrival, each guest is treated to a glass of wine or prosecco and a bountiful table of appetizing treats, all made by Fischer, who only recently retired after 17 years as managing director of Artist Series Concerts.
This first concert was devoted to Romantic masterpieces for flute and piano and opened with a real musical rarity.
Walter Gieseking is mostly remembered as a pianist of outstanding ability, rather than as a composer or his political sympathies in World War II. His few compositions are rarely, if ever, performed, and this performance of his “Sonatine” for flute and piano was for me a complete musical first.
True to his French background, this sonata is full of references to several musical “friends”; it abounds with the musical aromas of Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Ravel and even a few hints of Francis Poulenc here and there. He even added a little spice of the American “blues,” which was very popular in France at the time.
The sound from Irelan’s flute is not large but clear, solid and bright with just a slight edge, much in the style of Sir James Galway, and is always in tune. His handling of the lyrical and at times almost modal melodies was truly in the Romantic style.
Irelan prefaced his performance of “Fleet” by Daniel Kessner by telling us that the composer had requested him to give the first performance of the piece, which was at these concerts. “Fleet” is basically a musical dialogue between flute and piano, based on a four-note motive that is tossed back and forth between the two instruments in many forms. Once it gets started, the work is constantly moving in virtual perpetual motion. A restful and lyrical midsection repeats legato statements of the original motives until it all returns to the musical game of tag that began the piece, and it ends as it started, with the brief motive. Irelan and Fietl seemed determined that neither would be the “winner” in this musical skirmish and complemented each other nicely.
Most welcome were "Three Romances," Op. 94 by Robert Schumann, originally written for oboe and piano and beautifully played by both performers. After the angular antics of “Fleet,” the sheer romanticism of his melodies, phrasing and harmonies made us aware once again of the beauty of Schumann’s writing.
The program ended with the “Sonata Undine” of Carl Reinecke, his musical interpretation of the story of the water nymph who becomes human but is destined to die if her lover is unfaithful to her.
Reinecke used all the resources of flute and piano as the four movements depicted the excitement of first love, the lyrical romance and ultimate tragedy and death of Undine. Throughout this sonata, as in the rest of the program, Feitl was always a most worthy partner and created her own musical moments to complete the tragic story of Udine.
Although the music was from different countries and times, a certain sameness prevailed in the selections, at least until the end. The appreciative audience was rewarded with an encore: “Tango Tzigane,” known under its more familiar name of “Jalousie” and arguably the most famous of all the tangos, ended the concert on a delightfully familiar note.
Afterward, audience and artists sampled homemade desserts, again prepared by “chef” John Fischer, yet another perk of the Soirée Series.
The appearances of Taylor Irelan and Andrea Feitl are examples of the new direction and focus of the Artist Series Concerts, to introduce new and rising performers to Sarasota audiences in their various programs titled “New Faces — New Stars.”