Richard Craig, flute
The main entrance hall of Aberdeen Art Gallery offered a dramatic contrast with the drier more intimate chamber acoustic of King’s College Chapel where flute virtuoso Richard Craig gave his first concert last Wednesday. The pieces he had chosen for his second recital were all works that he said would benefit from the edge-blurring resonances that the Art Gallery had to offer. There was also a considerable amount of background noise as non-concertgoers came and went and traffic noise filtering in from outside too. Some people found it annoying but strangely enough, it did not bother me. It simply sounded unreal, like distant grumblings drifting through from a world I had left behind as I listened and was swallowed up by the other world conjured up by the voices of Richard Craig’s flute and the swathes of electro-acoustic sound tailored by Pete Stollery that surrounded it for many of the pieces.
In the first piece which was by Bernhard Lang with electronics by Haubenstock-ramati, the electro-acoustic element was the dominant source of colour. For most of the piece, it provided an almost continuous wash of slowly changing sound textures while Richard Craig’s alto flute punctuated it and drew brief lines over the colour wash provided by the electronics. The sounds of the flute, often at the lower and less audible ends of the register were very subtle and demanded intense concentration from the listener. The overall impression was of the sounds of an array of Aeolian instruments.
The second piece by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, titled oddly enough in French, was Laconisme de L’aile, which would translate, though not literally, as something like Essence of flight. It was meant to give us the intrinsic effects of the sound and movement of birds in flight. It began with vocalisations from the performer which were possibly in French. I call them vocalisations rather than words since what the audience was intended to receive was not the meaning of the words but rather the hollow skeleton of their sound patterns. Unlike the intermittent nature of the utterances of the instrument in the opening piece, here the flute followed much more continuous line and the “special effects” were carefully merged with a more traditional flute part. There is no doubt though that the idea contained in the somewhat mysterious title was vividly expressed by the music. This was its third ever performance in Scotland.
Bruno Maderna’s Musica i due dimensione or Music in two dimensions was one of the first ever pieces created for flute and prepared tape. For the first part of the piece, Richard Craig ascended to somewhere in the upper part of the Gallery where he was invisible to the audience. This had the interesting effect of concealing the separation of the flute from the prepared background. When for the final part of the piece, Richard Craig descended and took his place in front of the audience again, the distinction between the two sound elements became far more readily apparent and I suspect the writing of the music heightened this effect as well.
The final work in the recital was by another Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino whose piece Venere che la grazie fiorniscono we heard at the other recital on Wednesday. This time we heard Hermes in which quiet explorations of the harmonic series were interrupted by short frenetic bursts of activity in which the sounds were more cutting edge.
It was fascinating to experience four more pieces which were so very different from the ones which we heard on Wednesday. I suspect this is a repertoire which knows no bounds and we must thank Richard Craig and sound for this brief insight into some of its secrets.
Copyright Alan Cooper