MidAmerica Productions presents: Romance: German and French Romantic Music for Flute and Piano in Review

MidAmerica Productions presents: Romance: German and French Romantic Music for Flute and Piano in Review

Romance: German and French Romantic Music for Flute and Piano
Patrick Gallois, flute; Maria Prinz, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
March 6, 2014
 

MidAmerica Productions is one of the busiest concert presenters in New York, indeed worldwide. In my experience, their concerts are always on a high level and their audiences substantial. Weill Hall was almost full for this recital, no small accomplishment for an instrumental recital in which the performers are not household names. The concert focused on that most beloved musical era, the Romantic period. The first half was focused on German music and the second half, French. The stated goal, according to the program notes, was to “bring listeners to explore another atmosphere in another world.”

First we heard Three Romances, Op. 94, by Robert Schumann. Originally written for oboe, Mr. Gallois, needed to change only a few notes to make them work for the flute. These pieces were presented by Robert to his wife Clara in 1849 as a Christmas present. These lovely “songs without words” no doubt made a hit with their recipient. As we are reminded in the distinctly romantic program notes written by Ms. Prinz, Robert and Clara Schumann’s relationship was ”one of the most famous love stories in music history.” These exquisite, tuneful pieces remind one of Robert Schumannʼs Lieder and could probably be successfully performed on any treble instrument. The second, in the major mode, is especially beautiful. All three were given a sensitive and shapely performance.

The remainder of the first half was devoted to Carl Reineckeʼs Undine Sonata, Op. 167. In addition to being unquestionably “romantic” in style, this piece is distinctly programmatic. Undine was a water spirit who fell in love with a human, was betrayed by him, gave him a fatal kiss and then returned to the water. In the first movement the waves and undulations of the water were clearly depicted in the flute line, played with limpid fluidity by Mr. Gallois, and by the arpeggiated chords in the piano, sensitively executed by Ms. Prinz. The sparkling second movement begins with rapid staccato notes in the flute (Undine is getting excited!) followed by dotted rhythm of the piano (the knight has arrived!) The third movement is a beautiful love duet, played with great feeling by Mr. Gallois and Ms. Prinz. Then, in the fourth movement, the Sturm und Drang of betrayal and retribution are portrayed in rapid scale passages and diminished seventh chords. At the end of the piece we return to the rocking 6/8 meter of the first movement as, like a good Rhine maiden, Undine returns to her original home.

After intermission we heard a lovely Romance, Op. 37, by Camille Saint-Saëns. The flute’s tender melody was played beautifully, and its rapid scales and octave passages were tossed off with aplomb. Next we heard Charles-Marie Widorʼs Suite, Op. 34. The beautiful third movement, entitled Romance, was captivating, and the technical challenges of the finale were deftly managed by both performers. Its second movement is evidently a most effective Scherzo, as it elicited delighted chuckles from the audience.

The last piece on the program was Gabriel Piernéʼs Sonata, Op. 36. Originally this piece was written for violin, however it is often performed on the flute. Indeed, the original sheet music mentions that it can be played by either instrument. During this work, the flute was sometimes overbalanced by the piano, especially towards the end. Perhaps this problem would have been alleviated if the lid of the piano had been moved to the short stick. The lid was fully open for the entire program, but there were no balance problems in previous works.

The audience was obviously enchanted with everything Mr. Gallois and Ms. Prinz did and rewarded them with fulsome applause. The encore was Maurice Ravelʼs “Kaddisch,” from the composer’s Deux Mélodies hébraïques. Originally written for voice and piano, the voice part was transcribed for flute by Mr. Gallois.

 

 


CD in Review: Patrick Gallois, flute; Maria Prinz, piano

CD Review: Patrick Gallois, flute; Maria Prinz, piano
Mozart Violin Sonatas K.376, K.377, K378, K 570 arranged for flute and Piano by Patrick Gallois
Naxos 8.573033; Playing time 74:33 ; Recorded at Casinio Baumgarten, Vienna, Austria June 4-6, 2012
Producer, Engineer and Editor: Jens Jamin
 
Patrick Gallois, flutist  and Maria Prinz, pianist

Patrick Gallois, flutist and Maria Prinz, pianist

The Baroque period is rich in solo flute music.  The two greats, Bach and Handel, each wrote several sonatas, and many of the lesser geniuses contributed as well.  In the Romantic period, Schubert favored the instrument with a set of virtuoso variations and the French wrote reams of tuneful and often showy pieces.  In the twentieth century many of the most prominent composers, among them Prokofiev, Bartok, Poulenc, Hindemith, Piston, and Ibert wrote solo flute music.  And today’s composers love the flute.

The Classical period is a different story.  Unless the flutist has an orchestra at her (or his) disposal to play a Mozart concerto, she will find almost nothing.  Enter Patrick Gallois. Mr. Gallois, a prominent French flutist and conductor, has skillfully transcribed four Mozart violin sonatas, K.376, K.377, K. 378, and K. 570, for the flute.  At the age of eight, Mozart wrote sonatas that could be played by either flute or violin, as was common practice in the Baroque era.  This is the precedent for Mr. Gallois’ adaptations.

The lovely Sonata K.570 has a different history from the other three works.  In 1789, Mozart entered this work into his list of compositions as a solo piano sonata. In 1796 It was published posthumously by Artaria as a sonata for piano with violin accompaniment. Subsequent scholarship has concluded that this was not Mozart’s intent, although the arranger is not known.

For the most part, the flute is well suited to these genial, accessible compositions.  A few changes have to be made.  As the violin’s range goes a third or a fourth below that of the flute (depending on the flute,) there are some octave transpositions. The flute is more powerful in its high register than when playing lower notes. The notes in the first octave are just not very loud.  This is not the case with the violin, and for this reason it often behooves the flute to play in a higher octave in order to balance the piano.  Where the violin plays double stops, the flute plays arpeggios.  These changes do not impinge on the musical effectiveness of the pieces.

Unlike most flute sonatas these pieces do not give both instruments equal importance; the piano is the more important member of the duo.  Indeed, the sonatas are referred to in some editions as piano sonatas with violin accompaniment. Maria Prinz is a fine pianist who plays with style and verve, always vital but never overpowering her partner. Mr. Gallois has a lovely sound, beguiling phrasing and especially clean articulation. No doubt many flutists and fans of flute music will find great pleasure in this new addition to the repertoire.


MidAmerica Productions presents “Vienna Meets Paris” in Review

MidAmerica Productions presents “Vienna Meets Paris”
Patrick Gallois, flute; Maria Prinz, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; New York, NY
March 4, 2013
 
Patrick gallois and Maria Prinz

Patrick gallois and Maria Prinz

 

French flutist Patrick Gallois and Vienna- based pianist Maria Prinz combined their talents in a program called “Vienna Meets Paris”, the first half dedicated to Vienna, and the second half, Paris. Their no-nonsense manner upon entering the stage reflected the lives of busy professionals, but from the first sterling tones it was obvious that this was going to be something memorable.

Opening with Mr. Gallois’s arrangement of the Sonata in F major, K. 376 of Mozart, the duo gave notice that they were one with this piece, which one might expect as they have recently recorded this work for Naxos (http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.573033). Ms. Prinz, who has collaborated with other prominent flutists, never allowed her playing to become overpowering, even though the piano was on the full stick.  It is also a credit to Mr. Gallois that he projected his playing with such ability that he was never in any danger of being covered.  Mr. Gallois has a full-bodied tone that sings and soars, but never allows any overblowing. He also has an assured technique that allows him to make short work of difficult passages. It was an auspicious start.

Beethoven’s National Airs with variations, Op.105 and Op. 107 were commissioned by the Scottish folk-song collector and publisher George Thompson. A Schüsserl und a Reindel, Op. 105, No. 3 and St. Patrick’s Day, Op 107, No. 4, were featured. As per the request of Thompson (“You must write the variations in a familiar, easy, and slightly brilliant style, so that the greatest number of our ladies can play and enjoy them”), Beethoven gives the pianist the bulk of the difficulty in some brilliant writing. Even “easy” pieces can be dangerous, but Mr. Gallois did not fall into this trap. He played with finesse, adding his own touches of brilliance, while Ms. Prinz’s star shone brightly in what really are piano works with flute added. Ending the first half, three Schubert songs, Gute Nach, Das Fischermädchen and Ständchen, as transcribed by Theobald Böhm (1794-1881). Böhm, who can be considered the father of the modern Western flute and the corresponding fingering system still In use, did for the flute what Liszt did for the piano in his transcriptions of these songs.  Mr. Gallois and Ms. Prinz played these songs with flair, but also with sensitivity.  It was a thoughtful and melodious departure from Vienna.

The second half took the listener to Paris with three works by French composers written explicitly for the flute. Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941) wrote in the style of his great contemporaries Franck, Debussy, and Ravel.  His Sonata for Flute and Piano No. 2 is unmistakably impressionistic in its tonal form and written with idiomatic detail that one would expect from one so familiar with the flute. Mr. Gallois captured the singing lines, the magical, and the mystical with what seemed to be the greatest of ease. This is not at all surprising considering the connection Mr. Gallois has with this work. The baton has been passed through the generations when considers the musical genealogy – Gaubert to his student Marcel Moyse to his student Joseph Rampal, to his son Jean-Pierre, to Jean-Pierre’s student Gallois.

La merle noire (The Blackbird) from Olivier Messiaen followed. Written in 1952 as a test piece for the Paris Conservatoire, this short composition was one of Messiaen’s earliest works to use the concept of notated birdsong, which was a life-long fascination of him. Mr. Gallois captured the warbling element with great imagination, and both he and Ms. Prinz conveyed its dizzying effects in a captivating performance. The Sonata for Flute and Piano by Francis Poulenc closed the program. This work is among the best-loved and most frequently performed works in the flute repertoire. It was composed with Jean-Pierre Rampal in mind. In his memoirs, Rampal mentions a phone call from Poulenc- “Jean-Pierre,” said Poulenc, “you know you’ve always wanted me to write a sonata for flute and piano? Well, I’m going to, “he said. “And the best thing is that the Americans will pay for it! I’ve been commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation to write a chamber piece in memory of Elizabeth (Sprague) Coolidge. I never knew her, so I think the piece is yours.”  Brimming with brilliance, this work is vintage Poulenc, and a successful performance requires a player who can “do it all”. Mr. Gallois brought out the bursts of optimistic energy with confidence in the first movement, the longing, wistfulness of the second movement, and the joyous whimsy of the “off to the races” finale. Ms. Prinz was with him every step of the way. Played with élan, it was a winning performance. Encores followed, of which I especially liked the “Meditation” from Massenet’s Thaïs, played with delicate beauty.

A final thought – it was particularly striking how synchronized Mr. Gallois and Ms. Prinz were throughout. It was as if they were of the same mind, a “mind-meld” that found them in perfect ensemble without any visual contact or physical cues such as nodding.  I have seen other duos that had excellent rapport, but this was truly something above and beyond the norm.  This is a pairing that has unlimited potential if they decide to continue as a duo.