August 2012 Convention
Las Vegas, NV

Baroque Flutes: Alive and Well in Las Vegas

For the first time since attending my first NFA convention in 1975, I came to a convention as a registrant, not a performer or exhibitor. About a year ago, I began playing Baroque flute (traverso), so I decided to make the Baroque events my focus of the convention. I was not at all disappointed, as each day had interesting lectures, workshops, and performances.

Thursday morning started with the Baroque Flute Competition Semifinal Round. Six flutists performed the same repertoire in the order of their choice: Fantasia No. 1 in A Major (1732–1733) by Telemann; Couperin’s Concerts royaux: Les Goutis-reunis; Septieme Concert (1722); and the Sonata in G Major, Op. 2, No. 4 (1732) by Locatelli. Although three finalists were chosen to move on, all six performers were competent.

On Thursday afternoon, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Betty Bang Mather, gave an informative and interesting lecture/demonstration entitled “Let’s Dance and Orate Bach’s B Minor Suite.” She was assisted by Elizabeth Sadilek-Labenski, flute; Julie Hobbs, piano; and a host of Baroque dancers including Joanne Chadima and Tamara Maddaford. Bang Mather and associates demonstrated how the Baroque dance steps influence the tempo, phrasing, and speed of each movement as well as where to play egal and enegal.

Betty Bang Mather and associates demonstrate Baroque dance steps

On Friday morning Baroque flutist Stephen Schultz, presented “Bach for Modern Flutists.” Schultz, who teaches at Carnegie Mellon University, offered many helpful suggestions (as many as were humanly possible within one hour) to better understand traditional 18th-century style and interpretation. Betty Bang Mather, in attendance, also offered good suggestions.

At the Friday noon session, “Getting Started on Baroque Flute,” it was really great to see the entire Baroque flutist community come together to help offer newcomers a first-time traverse experience. To my surprise, they loaned out their personal instruments for participants to try. Linda Pereksta led the proceedings with clear-cut, step-by-step instructions. Pereksta teaches flute at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, is editor of Traverso magazine, and chairs the NFA Historical Flutes Committee. Wendy Rolfe, Nancy Schneeloch-Bingham, and many other Baroque flutists gave individual help. The session ended with everyone participating in traverso duets.

On late Friday afternoon, Schultz and Nancy Hadden presented a Baroque recital. They began the performance with a Telemann duet and then each performed a solo sonata. Hadden lives in London and is on the faculty of Strasbourg Conservatoire. They are two world-class performers.

Saturday morning started with the final round of the Baroque Artist Competition, with a repertoire including J. S. Bach’s Sonata in G Minor (Barenreiter); J. M. LeClair’s Sonata in G Major, Op. 1, No. 8 (Fuzaeu); and Marin Marais’s Les folies d’Espagne (Barenreiter). Congratulations to winner Nihan Atalay! Judges were Hadden, Christopher Krueger, and Schultz, and Schneeloch-Bingham was the coordinator.

“Baroque Meets Renaissance” was the theme of the Saturday afternoon concert, which featured Krueger and Hadden. Krueger, principal flutist of the Handel and Haydn Society and Boston Baroque, performed Boismortier’s Sonate in E Minor, Op. 91, No. 4. Hadden performed selections by Bassano, de Rore, Van Eyck, and Caccini on the Renaissance flute. They concluded the concert with Pieces en Trio by Marin Marais, which was among the first publications for traversi in 1692. Yet another first-rate concert.

Sunday morning began with a concert entitled “The Art of the Traverso.” The concert began with Traverso Calore, a traverso ensemble led by Eva Amsler, professor of flute at Florida State University. The ensemble performed original and transcribed works by composers including Boismortier and Handel. I especially enjoyed its transcription of the “spring” first movement from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The program concluded with a strong performance, by Magda Schwerzmann, of Methodical Sonata in B Minor, TWV 41: h 3 (1732) by Telemann and the Sonata in G (1770) by Nardini. Schwerzmann teaches at the University of Luzern and Bern and is principal flutist with Orchestra Collegium Musicum.

Mary Oleskiewicz

The culminating Baroque flute event was a fascinating lecture/recital entitled “The Flutist of Sanssouci: Fredrick “the Great” as Composer, and Performer,” presented by Mary Oleskiewicz, associate professor at the University of Massachusetts and a leading authority on Quantz. Oleskiewicz, who recently received a grant to study and perform at Fredrick’s Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Germany, is a well-researched scholar and delivers her information with great enthusiasm. Her lecture was enhanced by projected slides of Fredrick “the Great,” Quantz, and the palace. She brilliantly performed sonatas by Fredrick on a replica of a Quantz two-keyed traverso (E-flat and D-sharp keys) made by Jean-Francois Beaudin from Montreal, Canada.

Attending the 2012 NFA Baroque flute events was a pleasure and a great learning experience, and I enjoyed meeting members of the Baroque flute community. Special kudos and thanks to harpsichordist Ian Pritchard, who accompanied virtually all of the Baroque flute concerts, including the competition. Pritchard, a PhD candidate in musicology at the University of Southern California, performed masterfully in every situation—congratulations, Ian! Well-deserved congratulations are also due Schneeloch-Bingham, who did a great job of coordinating these events.

I encourage all modern flutists who have not experienced the Baroque flute to give it a try. It will greatly influence your interpretation of Baroque music and its performance, even on the modern flute.

—John Barcellona

"Let's Dance" photos by Brian Covington