“The Flute is the Pretty One!”

Program Preview: September 15th, 7:00pm

Reviewing: Sonata for two Flutes (1918/1920) – Charles Koechlin and Au-delà du temps “Transcending Time” (2002) – Yuko Uebayashi

“The Flute is the pretty one!”

by Alex Legeros

Last month I had the opportunity to perform simple woodwind quintet arrangement for preschoolers as part of my army musician training in Norfolk, VA. Following an apropos rendition of Old McDonald (the oboe squawks a minor third and the bassoon goes MOOOooo on a low D), we introduced the children to our instruments. When we got to the flute, the best thing we could come up with that was at their level was: “The flute is the shiny, pretty one!”

Charles Koechlin (1938)

Charles Koechlin (1938)

It’s hard for me not to remember these words when I listen to the works for two flutes by Charles Koechlin and Yuko Uebayashi, and I mean that honestly. These composers’ command of style creates beautiful and diverse melodies, which drive me to listen to them again and again. As I become familiar with the works however, I discover these works are not beautiful for the sake of being beautiful. Each has an incredibly complex structure, which gets masked by the shimmering and colorful tone of the flute.

Both composers have strong ties to “Les Six,” a group of French composers that came together following the first world war in reaction to the styles of both Richard Wagner and the impressionists Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Koechlin came of age as a composer alongside a number of composers we’ve heard in the last year performed by The Musical Offering: Poulenc, Massenet, Milhaud, Korngold, and Richard Strauss, and one hears connections in cerebral, tonal, and lyrical dimensions. Uebayashi composes in our time, yet Transcending Time may just as easily been written a century earlier. Most present similarities are her harmonies and their use to depict light in a restrained and subtle yet powerful manner.

Of all four works in the upcoming September 15th concert, I find myself preparing for these two flute works. The more I listen, the more they belong in this arc of Viennese music, and the more I can appreciate the beauty found in these duplicity calm works.

Here’s a YouTube link for the Koechlin Sonata for two Flutes to get you started. See you at the concert!


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