Miscellany for Flute and Harp

Malcolm Tattersall
| March 9, 2014

Kathryn Moorhead, Flute, and Megan Reeve, Harp.
Move MCD 447

Miscellany for Flute and HarpSome years ago one of the leading French flautists released a disc – probably vinyl – called The Charm of the Flute. It would be an apt title for this disc, too, replete as it is with deservedly well-known short recital pieces: Fauré’s Berceuse, Neilsen’s The Fog is Lifting, Bizet’s Entr’acte, Ibert’s ditto, von Paradis’ Sicilienne, Goddard’s Allegretto, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker (the Arab Dance rather than the Sugar-plum Fairies) and Gluck’s Blessed Spirits. Greensleeves is there, too, but in the less-familiar form of a set of late seventeenth century ‘divisions’ or variations composed for recorder.

Enjoyable though these pieces are, the remainder of the disc is more interesting to listeners already au fait with the core flute repertoire. There’s a slow movement from a Telemann recorder sonata (ornamented so beautifully that even a recorder player can forgive the appropriation), a knotty Tango Etude from Astor Piazzolla, the lyrical Quiet Evening from Australian composer John Carmichael, which will be new to many listeners, and two more.

Flautists typically team up with guitar, piano or harp and the last of these is arguably the best partner, guitar often being too quiet and piano too percussive. Reeve is certainly a sympathetic accompanist here and the balance is admirable. The only item for harp alone is by the other Australian composer on the disc, Colin Brumby. His Mists of Islay is in three short movements, all rippling along as happily as peaty rivulets through moorland.

The longest and most rewarding item, the Phantasy on Themes of Japanese Folk Songs by Austrian harpist and composer Josef Molnar, concludes the programme. Flute and harp naturally evoke shakuhachi and koto, and Molnar asks for appropriately extended techniques – glissandi and bent notes from the flautist, percussive effects from the harpist – in a work which juxtaposes lively folk songs with gorgeously sustained slow airs. Molnar grants both players a fair share of the technical challenges and musical honours.

Moorhead is a very strong player, completely in control of her instrument and the music. Every note is burnished to a high lustre and carefully tapped into precisely the right place – so authoritatively, in fact, that this listener sometimes wished that she would relax and let the music breathe more freely. That’s a minor quibble indeed, however, in the context of such an attractive recital: this Miscellany will inspire many young flautists with its model performances of standard repertoire and bring great pleasure to a wider public.

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