About this Recording
8.559831 - Chamber Music (Flute) - KERNIS, A.J. / FINE, M. / ELKIES, N.D. / BARKER, J.M. / COLEMAN, D. (Living Music) (A.K. Dade, Scott Yoo, Arvinder, N. Elkies)

Living Music
New Music for Flute


Aaron Jay Kernis (b. 1960): Air (1995)

Air is a love letter in music. Songlike and lyrical, it opens up a full range of expressive and poignant possibilities. Composed with two main themes and open in harmony, the first poses melodic questions and their response, while the second is very still, rising ever-upward into the highest range of the flute. Following a middle section of dramatic intensity, it cycles back to the themes in reverse, developing each along the way, and ending quietly after a final plaintive ascent. Air is dedicated to pianist Evelyne Luest, the composer’s wife, and was originally composed for violin in 1995 for Joshua Bell. Since it’s premiere it has been arranged in versions with solo instrument and orchestra, chamber ensemble or piano, including this premiere recording for flute and string quartet.

Aaron Jay Kernis

Michael Fine (b. 1950): Skipping Stones (2013)

I began to compose in 2013 when my wife was diagnosed with a blood cancer. She suggested that I needed a creative outlet to help me deal with our new situation. Places, events, memories, and people always triggered a musical response but I never had the time or inclination to put them to paper. My first attempt was a string quartet with the oxymoronic title Dutch Tango. My next composing moment came on a train as I was traveling to recording sessions from my home in Rotterdam to France. Looking out of the window as the train crossed a particularly beautiful body of water, I remembered playing ‘skipping stones’ as a child wherever there was the happy concurrence of water and flat stones. By the time I crossed the French border the piece was sketched. The music might evoke other images or none at all: for me it is a happy memory of youth and those long days in the summer holidays. All the instruments get to skip stones: in the fourth bar, the bass finds a particularly good stone with a pizzicato toss on the waters. But the flute takes the lead: the perfect instrument to play the game and remember playing the game, for its ease in skipping all over the musical staff, its range of colors, and its reed pipe origin in nature. Somewhat shyly, I sent the piece to Scott Yoo and Alice Dade who quickly responded with enthusiasm. I’m happy to say that my wife is in remission and that I continue to write music.

Michael Fine

Noam Elkies (b. 1966): E Sonata (1996)

E Sonata was originally written in 1996 for Na’ama Lion as a sonata for Baroque flute and harpsichord, and arranged soon afterwards for modern flute and piano. E is both the key of the sonata and the initial letter of the title of each of the three movements. The first movement continues the chromatic High Baroque tradition that we know from Bach’s sonatas for flute (or other solo instruments) with keyboard; fittingly, one thread that runs through the movement and the rest of the sonata is a pattern that extends the B–A–C–H motif B flat–A–C–B in both directions: …A flat–G–B flat–A–C–B–D–C sharp…

The second movement explores the flute’s range of dynamics and tone colors on one note, while the keyboard provides the harmonic interest. The keyboard ventures a cadenza that interrupts the meditation; the flute insists on its E, and the resulting “argument” segues into the final movement. This is a reprise of the first movement, but transformed from Baroque lament into jazzy revelry. The second repeat is pre-empted by a solo cadenza, this one by the flute, which briefly recalls the first two movements before launching us into the sonata’s joyous conclusion.

Noam Elkies

Jennifer Margaret Barker (b. 1965): Na Trì Peathraichean (2000)

Na Trì Peathraichean (‘The Three Sisters…of Glencoe’) was commissioned by Virginia Symphony flautist Laurie Baefsky for premiere at the 1999–2000 Virginia Wesleyan College Familiar Faces Concert Series. The commission was financed in part by Virginia Wesleyan College.

The three sisters, Gearr Aonach, Aonach Dubh and Beinn Fhada, are neighboring mountain ridges in the Glencoe region of the Scottish Highlands. Each movement of the work focuses on one individual aspect of these breathtaking mountain ridges. The first movement focuses on the motion of the wind whistling through the crevices and ferns. The second movement was inspired by the perpetual rolling-motion of the mountainside screes (loose rock carpets), while the third movement seeks to capture the sheer magnitude and beauty of these mountains.

Jennifer Margaret Barker

Dan Coleman (b. 1972): Pavanes and Symmetries (2000)

Pavanes and Symmetries was originally composed for flute and string orchestra, and was premiered in 2000 by flautist Elizabeth Ostling and the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra. This version of the piece for flute and piano was arranged by Benjamin Loeb.

A pavane is a slow dance that was popular in the 17th century. In the 20th century it was favored again by many composers who aimed to transform and re-evalutate older styles. The symmetries referenced in the title are certain chords that are inverted around an axis comprised of a single note. This musical mirroring has the effect of changing a familiar sound into something novel and mysterious.

At the time I composed the piece, I was interested in a statement made by the poet Stanley Kunitz, in which he “speculated on the possibility, beyond simplicity, of an art so transparent that one could look through it and see the world.” This idea of art is partly a reaction to the 20thcentury conceit that each new work can (or must) create its own syntax, and that art is primarily a reflection of the artist. But is there a limit to how much newness can be created? Can received styles of music offer composers a vocabulary to communicate clearly and without nostalgia? The surface of Pavanes and Symmetries shifts between phrases that allude to Bach (without directly quoting his music) and other passages that may be heard as contemporary interjections. My hope while composing was that I could achieve such juxtapositions seamlessly, and that the inventive gestures would be heard as more intelligible and emotive in the context of phrases haunted by Baroque music. Perhaps it’s possible to glimpse the world of the present as we look through the prism of imagery received from our collective past.

Almost 20 years after composing Pavanes and Symmetries, I still yearn to communicate using elements from an unbroken musical history, while I recognize how difficult it is to do so effectively.

Dan Coleman

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