August 2006 Convention
Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh Symphony Flute Section in Recital

August 11, 2006

It isn’t often that one gets to hear a recital performed by the entire flute section of a major symphony orchestra. The Pittsburgh Symphony’s flute section did not disappoint on this rare occasion. The program opened with the delightful Quatour pour Flutes by Pierre Max Dubois. It became very obvious that the four were accustomed to each others’ playing, as their sounds blended wonderfully and their skillful dovetailing in the technical passages made it seem as if one flutist was playing.

Riann Kenny, the PSO’s piccoloist, began the program’s solo performances with two works by Thomas Masella, who was present at the recital, followed by the Gaubert Ballade. It was a treat to hear Kenny play flute, and it was equally as pleasant hearing her wonderful piccolo playing. Jennifer Conner, the second flutist of the section, played two works that “remind [her] of the great orchestral writing for the flute.” First we heard the lush Aria by Ernst von Dohnanyi, which Conner said reminded her of rich passages in Richard Struass and the music of the great French composers. Her other piece was Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capicioso, originally for piano, transcribed for flute by James Galway. This piece has characteristics very similar to the brilliant flute writing of the composer’s Italian Symphony and also the famous “Scherzo” from a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Both pieces were a joy to hear and played beautifully.

Damian Bursill-Hall, co-principal, noted that he is intrigued by musical dedications. He performed the evocative Jouers de flute by Albert Roussel, in which each movement is dedicated to a different flutist from the Paris Conservatory. His sound seemed classically French, and it was evident that he had a great affection for this work.

Damare McGill, acting principal flute, closed out the solo performance with the ever-popular Sonata for Flute and Piano by Lowell Liebermann, assisted by, as all were, pianist Donna Amato. They made their way through this difficult work highlighting the almost manic changes in mood and character. The ending was a surprise as McGill took the last four notes up an octave, producing four super high D sharps.

The program concluded with another flute quartet standard, Jour d’Ete la Montagne, by Eugene Bozza. Once again the four represented what true orchestral teamwork is all about: communication and collaboration.

—Nicole Esposito