August 2014 Convention
Chicago, IL

Sunday’s Mad Dash

Sunday featured five overlapping events that I wanted to hear, not an uncommon occurrence at NFA conventions. Assuming that listening outside the door counts, I made it to a little of everything. A diary-style report may best give a sense of the day’s excitement.

11:00 am: Young Artist Competition final round (detailed separately). Spectacular playing from everyone.

Mark Sparks

12:27 pm: Ran down two flights of stairs, across the hotel, then up an escalator, just in time for Sarah Jackson’s gorgeous piccolo rendition of Paul Taffanel’s Andante Pastoral et Scherzettino in the program “The Flutists of the L.A. Phil.” Claude Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis followed, a piece that is in Julien Beaudiment’s blood. Elise Shope then played Georges Hüe’s Fantasie, and the beauty of her playing matched the beauty of the piece. Beaudiment afterward had a ball with Catherine Ransom Karoly playing Franz Doppler’s Andante and Rondo. The finale was Samuel Barber’s wrenching Adagio in a flute quartet arrangement that worked beautifully, against my expectations.

1:30 pm: Break!

1:45 pm: St. Louis Principal Flute Mark Sparks in recital down the hall. I had never heard him and was blown away: consistently singing tone, fluid technique, and exquisite phrasing. He was perfectly paired with the formidable Colette Valentine on piano. I was treated to three pieces I had not heard: Henri Busser’s Theme Varié, Op. 68, sandwiched between two of Sparks’ own transcriptions, Max Bruch’s Romanze for viola, and Gabriel Faure’s Elegy for cello.

2:15 pm: Slipped out of Sparks’ concert, got back to Waldorf for University of Northern Colorado Professor James Hall’s half-recital. His playing was sensitive and colorful on Philippe Gaubert’s Sonata No. 1.

James Hall

2:35 pm: Snuck across the hall to hear Mary Stolper play Pulitzer Prize-winner Shulamit Ran’s new piece for flute and piano, Birds of Paradise, but it had already started. I pressed my ear to the door for 12 minutes and made out a commanding performance of a major, new work.

2:47 pm: Back to Waldorf in time to hear Hall burn the barn with Mike Mower’s Deviations on the Carnival of Venice. I would be remiss not to mention Hall’s collaborator, phenomenal pianist Stephen Pierce (whose name, regrettably, was omitted from the program book), who also sounded like a million bucks on the L.A. Phil flutists’ recital.

3:05 pm: Ran to the exhibit hall one last time. Left with both of Mark Sparks’ transcriptions and Shulamit Ran’s new piece, great purchases to end a great convention!


—Timothy Hagen

photos by Alice Dade and Brian Covington