|In festive mood - Ruth Avis (Flute) & Hilary Boxer ('Cello)|
on stage at the Corn Barn in Cullompton
The concert is called 'Festive Flute'. There are some Christmas tunes included, and also a selection of baroque, classical and modern music, written or arranged for this glorious combination of sounds. Hilary's previous 'Tasty Music' collaborations have all involved other stringed instruments - David Cottam's guitar, Susan Steele's piano and Jane Pirie's 'cello. The contrast provided by the flute could not be greater. High against low, breath against bow, wood against steel.
|breath . . .|
|. . . and bow|
Next the 'Festive Flute' recital took the audience to the baroque period, and the music of George Frederick Handel. Handel, like Bach and Telemann, wrote an extensive repertoire for the flute. Ruth played his Sonata in E minor (with continuo provided by Hilary on the 'cello). There are four movements, starting with a 'Grave' which they played with extraordinary control. Hilary and Ruth played a later rearrangement by Handel with additions from his violin sonata, but the final presto they played in the original version from 1728 - with harpsichord continuo, played by Hilary on 'cello. It works!
Having played continuo for a while, it was Hilary's turn to shine. A Tasty Music series would not be complete without Hilary's 'Prelude and Gigue' (first and final movements) from Bach's First Suite for 'Cello. This delightful solo turn appears on her album 'Nocturne' with David Cottam, and has featured on the 'Classical Journey' many times. To hear it played live again after all this time was a very special treat. Maybe we can get Hilary to perform it live in the Phonic FM studio - that would be special!
It is possible to forget that Ruth and Hilary are both very accomplished pianists, as well as being very skilled on their particular instruments. For Bach's Flute Sonata in E flat Hilary provided the continuo on piano - not a real piano unfortunately, but a very good electric equivalent. Ruth played this sonata in its entirety with pianist James Keefe at Dawlish Festival on 5th July this year. At this Sunday's concert Ruth chose not to play either the first or last movements (allegro), but rather the slow and poignant middle Siciliana. The choice was perfect. Although sad, the Siciciana is very restful and complemented Hilary's gigue perfectly.
|The Big Flute|
Ruth plays the alto flute for some traditional carols
Despite the coldness of the evening - and the fact that the alto was stone cold to the touch - Ruth immediately elicited that gorgeous mellow tone. She played a sweet medley of carols which suited the instrument perfectly. 'I wander as I wander' was followed seemlessly by 'God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen', 'What Child Is This?' (i.e. 'Greensleeves') and finally 'Coventry Carol'. The mellifluous tone of the alto was extremely restful - a trip to a gentle beautiful world.
|The Small Flute|
Piccolo flute for 'The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy'
Any high pitched instrument, celeste, armonica - or piccolo flute, will always be associated with the most popular dance - 'The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy'. Ruth's version was absolutely delightful and made everyone want to dance, including Ruth herself. Equally well known is 'The Dance of the Mirlitons', although 'mirlitons' are virtually unknown these days (some kind of Christmas vegetable treat!) The tune, however, is very familiar. Played on the 'C' flute is was a sublime treat for us all.
Now came the time for flute and 'cello to play together on equal terms. Instead of continuo, Hilary would be playing counterpoint alongside Ruth. Their next piece was from Rio de Janeiro in 1950. Heitor Villa-Lobos had a great love of the flute - and the 'cello. (His Bachianas Brazileiras was scored for flute and eight 'cellos.) At the age of 63 Villa-Lobos composed a perfect duet for flute and 'cello, 'Assobio a Játo' - 'The Jet Whistle'
The 'cello line is clearly a great composition in itself, and was beautifully played by Hilary. Ruth's flute had an equally engaging tune which cleverly and fiercely intruded into the 'cello line. Very exciting stuff. The second movement was incredibly slow and deliberate each breath and bow stroke starkly contrasted. The third movement, 'vivo', goes back to the wonderfully energetic counterpoint of 'breath and bow', all with the delicious flavour of classic Villa-Lobos and the folk music of Brazil.
Ruth finished the piece with her very special 'pièce de résistance'. A series of glissandi sweep up the full range of the flute, each ending on a higher note. How does she do it? You have to see for yourself! Hilary, meanwhile, keeps our attention on the 'cello with a series of powerful rasping notes. After the last startling glissando on the flute, Hilary is left to complete the story with a few perfect vibrato notes on the 'cello.
|A Festive Trio - surprise guest Linda Byrt (oboe)|
The concert finished with Hilary on piano and Ruth playing flute in a tune written in 1944 by 'The Velvet Fog' - vocalist Mel Tormé, and pianist Bob Wells. Nat King Cole made this one a hit in 1946. Ruth and Hilary did likewise as they played this last tune perfectly. Gorgeous!
Ruth Avis and Hilary Boxer
plus Linda Byrt - and an obliging oboe
|Corn Barn Proprietor Yta Batchelor|
a vote of thanks - and hope for more to come
Ruth is appearing with pianist Rebecca Willson (q.v.) in the second 'Nonclassical' concert in the Exeter Bikeshed Theatre at 7.30pm on Sunday 11 December. The first Nonclassical concert was sensational (q.v.) so this really will be something to hear!
Ruth Avis will be appearing on the 'Classical Journey' on Phonic FM at 10am on Tuesday 6 December to discuss their forthcoming concerts - and entertain us with live music!!!