Review: Foot stamping ovation for young flautist

The Australian Flute Festival, gala concert, October 6, at Llewellyn Hall. Reviewed by Helen Musa

OVER THE PAST weekend, as is usual Canberrans were spoilt for choice of leisure activities.

Ovation for 10 year old flutist Nikolai Song from Singapore

Ovation for 10 year old flutist Nikolai Song from Singapore

I could have been at the theatre several times over, or I could have been at the nerve tingling Belcopalooza Skate Championships at Belconnen Skate park.

But in fact I headed to the Australian Flute Festival’s gala concert at Llewellyn Hall.

Ever so quietly, this important music festival crept into town with three top international guests in  Marianne Gedigian, Prof of flute at the University of Texas,  Austin, Jim Walker, former principal flute in the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Spanish flautist Roberto Alvarez, Piccolo Soloist at Singapore Symphony Orchestra since 2007.

Featuring an intensive round of competitions, masterclasses, recitals, workshops, a professional learning day and a junior day replete with topics like “How to Amplify your flute”, “Navigating the Funding Maze”, and, for a newer generation, “Loopers and Laptops”, the festival showed  beyond doubt that the flute as an instrument is alive and well in this country.

The gala concert on Saturday night proved to be a showcase for the virtuous talents of the three chief visitors.

Beginning on a gentle, lighter note with all three playing as a flute trio, Indonesian composer  Ananda Sukarlan’s  “A Sicilian Diary,” the concert moved to a substantial performance by Gedigian the first two movements from Poulenc’s “Sonata for flute and piano.”

Then without warning, Gedigian left the stage to return with 10 year old Nikolai Song from Singapore, one of Alvarez’s pupils, who performed the sprightly third movement. The crowd went wild, treating the young artist to a foot-stamping ovation.

Walker, remarking that he wasn’t about to follow that, wisely gave ample demonstration of his instrument’s virtuosity, varying between languid melody and piercing insistence, in an entertaining Gershwin medley, that contained everything from “S’wonderful” to  “It ain’t necessarily so.”

A solo rendition by Alvarez of  Spanish composer Salvador Espasa’s “Poem and persecution” treated the audience to extraordinary show of technique, introducing his own  vocal  drone to the  flute, at times also adding a rhythmical percussive effect.

The second half of the program saw Gedigian perform two haunting works for piano and flute by Paul Schoenfield, Alvarez in the premiere of a new work by Spain’s Salvador Brotons and Walker in two movements from Mike Mower’s syncopated  “Sonata Latino.”

The final item in this attractive and accessible concert performed to an enthusiastic audience of food lovers, was a work for flute trio and piano by Italian composer Emmanuele Krakamp.

A postscript that shouldn’t be a postscript— four fine associate artists, Alan Hicks, David Barnard, Leigh Harrold and Gabriella Pusner, underscored the flute with their sensitive piano accompaniment.



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