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north east scotland's festival of new music

press reviews

Richard Craig and Laura Baxter

Written by Alan Cooper

COWDRAY HALL

The Lunchbreak Concerts and the Sound Festival welcomed back an old friend of both institutions when flute virtuoso Richard Craig took to the stage of the Cowdray Hall, supported on this occasion by the talented young pianist Laura Baxter. If we take into account that the Spanish Basque composer Ramon Lazkano now lives and works in Paris, Richard gave us an all French programme beginning with the Sonatine (1947) for flute and piano by Henri Dutilleux.

Richard Craig's relaxed delivery of the long breathed phrases of the opening section promised an exceptional performance and we were not to be disappointed. Nimble precision playing led to a perfectly clear pizzicato upward run before the second section opened with a deftly played little cadenza for the flute alone. In fact here the flute was often solo or else soaring over contrasting dark chords on the piano. In the third section the flute fluttered hither and thither like a butterfly in a summer garden. I would be surprised if some choreographer has not seized on this music for a ballet. It would certainly seem ideally suited to that purpose.

André Jolivet founded a music group called La Jeune France another of whose members was Olivier Messiaen. He was also a composition pupil of Edgard Varèse who wrote one of the most iconic twentieth century pieces for solo flute Density 21.5 which regular Lunchbreak/Sound Festival audience members will recall was played recently by Margaret Preston at her concert. Richard Craig chose one of the five pieces which make up Jolivet's solo flute work, Cinq Incantations. Although its ritualistic inspiration was what mattered to the composer, listening to Richard Craig's interpretation, I could not help wondering whether Messiaen's fascination with birdsong had not rubbed off just a little on Jolivet. The music of Aux Funérailles du chef pour obtenir la protection de son ├óme sounded something like the outpourings of some amphetamine fuelled avian diva. Here the virtuosity of Richard Craig's playing took joyful flight.

It is not surprising that Errobi I by Ramon Lazkano was getting its UK premier at this concert. Richard Craig is one of the few British players capable of performing it. The pianist too had not a few technical problems to overcome at the beginning of this work although later on the piano part became perhaps not easier, but certainly more conventional. Pops like water droplets or whiffles like gusts of wind populated much of the flute part along with breathy fluttering and just to get through the printed score presented the player with those orienteering skills which we have seen from past performances that Richard Craig is expert in.

The final piece in the concert was by none other than Olivier Messiaen himself. Le merle noir (The Blackbird) had the composer's trademark ability not only to mimic birdsong but to recreate the apparent randomness of the warbling. I have no doubt that this randomness is not perceived as such by other birds but for us humans it definitely seems so and Messiaen certainly has it captured in his flute writing. The piano part expertly played by Laura Baxter carried hints of the Balinese Gamelan, another of Messiaen's special fascinations.

  • published on 11 November 2010
  • written by Alan Cooper

Reproduced with permission of the author.

reviewed event
  Date Day Time Location Event Details
NOVEMBER
11Thu12.45 pmAberdeenRichard Craig, flute and Laura Baxter, piano