FLUTE AND OBOE PORTRAITS: A CONCERT AT THE CHURCH OF ALL NATIONS
by Jennifer Bryce
When I was in Paris last year, I loved that you can wander around the 5th and 6th arrondissements and just happen upon interesting exhibitions and concerts. This is also becoming the case in Melbourne.
I’ve come from a Sunday afternoon concert held at the Church of All Nations in Carlton: Timmins and Friends – flautist Jennifer Timmins
and her highly talented friends had put together an hour or so of music that featured flute and oboe (played superbly by Stephanie Dixon),
several New Zealand composers, also music by American composer Robert Muczynski (1929 – 2010), Swiss composer Daniel Schnyder (b 1961) and Frenchman Jacques Ibert (1890 – 1962). Jennifer and Stephanie were assisted by Laurence Matheson on piano and Tim Murray, bassoon.
The first item was a Duo by Robert Muczynski, intended for two flutes, but it worked beautifully for flute and oboe, in fact, I found it difficult to imagine a second flute fitting as well as the oboe did. The first movement opened with the oboe playing a firm ascending scale and the flute winding around it, playing with it. There were six short movements – in some of the faster ones the oboe line was quite percussive – a staccato that I imagine can be crisper when played with a reed rather than with the flute.
We then heard solo flute, Harakeke (Flax) by New Zealand composer Philip Brownlee (b 1971). Here the flute was perfect for evoking wind blowing through flax.
Then we had another case of the oboe substituting for another instrument. ‘Substituting’ suggests that the result was not as good as the intended instrument – but I doubt very much that this is the case. The oboe sounded superb in a sonata for Soprano Saxophone and piano by Daniel Schnyder. The piece explored a jazz/ classical cross-over and, as oboist Stephanie said, it gave her a chance to play some jazz. The final movement, in particular, is syncopated and jazzy.
New Zealand composer Bryan James (b 1949) wrote a piece, Tasman Ice, in the mid-1970s. A fantasia for solo flute, it was originally used in the sound-track of a film about the Tasman Glacier, made for the Department of Land and Survey/ Conservation. I am not surprised to learn that James plays the shakuhachi and has a deep interest in Japanese and Chinese music – the piece contrasts icy tinkling and mysterious depth.
Two pieces for flute, oboe, bassoon and piano by Jacques Ibert were followed by New Zealand composer Salina Fisher’s (b 1993) Unfinished Portrait, for the same instruments. This is a response, by the composer, to letters between New Zealanders artist Rita Angus (1908 – 1970) and composer Douglas Lilburn (1915 – 2001), and interest in a portrait, in oils, that Angus attempted, some years after her first portrait of Lilburn.
Early Portrait of Douglas Lilburn by Rita Angus
Angus hoped that this second portrait would express her ‘long and deep devotion’. But she was unhappy with the result, and after eight years, destroyed it. Salina Fisher’s piece was written at the time of the centenary of Lilburn’s birth. I sensed at times in the piano part a ‘fluid’ motif that suggested to me the on-going motion of painting – at the end, the piece trails off, with a single line from the piano, as it were, into nothingness.
Rita Angus, Hawkes Bay Landscape, 1966
Congratulations to Jennifer Timmens and her friends for putting together and performing such an imaginative and beautifully executed concert.
Rita Angus, Flight, 1969