August 2013 Convention
New Orleans, LA

Power-Packed Thursday

During this convention we had to choose between so many sessions at a time (sometimes seven or more!) that I felt guilty if I picked just one or two and missed the others. Below is an overview of my Thursday alone.

On Thursday I began with “Italian Influences and Beyond.” I heard Nicola Mazzanti play piccolo in such an incredible way that you couldn’t believe it was a piccolo. Colors, finger technique, intonation, dynamics, style—it was all there. (I was sorry to have to miss Angela Jones-Reus.) I had expected the performers to explain what was typical about Italian music, as well as to explain the meaning of the title’s “and Beyond.” But they simply performed the romantic and 20th-century pieces.

Barthold Kuijken

So I slipped out of the session early and went on to:

The Flemish traverso player Barthold Kuijken—whose playing is great. He has performed all the Baroque flute music repertoire so many times that he now “invents” new embellishments, for his own amusement and for others who appreciate his world of living with the music. The result is a completely new kind of performance, one we are not used to—but perhaps that was the very experience of an audience in the Baroque period, too. In his masterclasses, Kuijken talks about ideas, the mood of a piece in general. He tries to show the students his way of making a decision about whether to play a note longer or shorter, lighter or heavier, and the importance of such a detail. The “rules” can be found in Quantz’ work and others; he didn’t spend time on these issues. For starters or amateurs (“lovers”!) it can be hard to understand how to use his ideas. But his most important message was, “enjoy the music!”

Marianne Gedigian

Concerts such as the solo concert featuring Carol Wincenc, Marianne Gedigian, Zart Dombourian-Eby, and Marcos Granados are the jewels of a convention program. Each flute player tells his or her own story and shows why he has chosen these particular pieces. Because they are not works in a program by one soloist, they each hold more importance.

For me, Wincenc always plays as a magician: She paints her colors and moods. It was interesting to hear her play together with Gedigian in Town Light by Uebayashi. They both were required to change something in their own styles to play this “simple,” enchanting piece. And they did! Gedigian is a very strong player, and her choice of the Sonata by Muczynski fitted her very well. She played it with great virtuosity.

In the hands of Zart Dombourian-Eby, a piccolo seems such an easy instrument, and when she played Gary Schocker’s Piccolo Sonata—along with Schocker himself at the piano—you had to listen very carefully to hear and enjoy the layer below (the more serious one) to avoid the impression that this is simple music. A little bit more showy playing style reaches the audience better. Marco Granados touches my heart with everything he plays. His pieces by Mantega and Laurenz were very interesting because the mood was South American, but there is a development to more modern language. It seems to me that Marco has found his form.

Robert Dick

Thursday’s pre-gala concert was one of a kind! Barthold Kuijken (with his broken leg) showed that he can make music with every composition he plays, original or not. It almost doesn’t matter if the composer’s identity is known; Kuijken tells his story. (Have you ever heard him play Syrinx on travers flute? I did!) Robert Dick presented a completely different sound, from his own world. I always wonder what came first: Dick’s ideas or the possibilities he keeps finding on the low flutes. Everything he plays is expressive, musical, and jazzy, and he takes the audience with him on his journey. Dutch flutist Wil Offermans has developed a completely different way of expression, with influences of Japanese sounds. What started as a tool for beginning children—Thumpy, just a headjoint—has become another way to express his rhythm and “airy” melodies. With only an embouchure and two thumbs—as well as his sense of humor—Offermans caught the attention of the complete audience. The concert’s final performer, Greg Pattillo, has been present for each of the past few years’ conventions. It is interesting to see and hear him still developing, although you would think that it would not be possible to find more complicated flute or drums sounds than those he has already found. I heard beat with tongue and lips, flute playing one melody while singing another one, something I cannot describe going on with his fingers—and throughout, a performance with 1000 percent energy!

—Mia Dreese

photos by Phyllis Louke and Brian Covington