Duos for flute and guitar have abounded for centuries, often featured in the courts, theatres or wedding ceremonies in all parts of the globe (and with a vast array of instruments made out of bamboo, wood and gut to today’s modern editions, whose range and decibel output have been greatly expanded).
Yet finding “serious” repertoire for the popular pairing is no easy task: All the more reason to thank Duozona (Chuck and Theresa Hulihan) and Emeritus Recordings for bringing this repertoire into the catalogue.
Even here, some of the music began life differently. Sy Brandon’s Three Preludes was originally conceived for English horn and guitar. In the “Maestoso,” there’s an impassioned discussion amongst equals, the flute likely a better foil to the double reed’s penetrating cries. However, the beautifully shaped guitar lines get the last word. The “Allegro” raises the stakes a notch, opening with a heady combination of confidence and zest, followed by some purposefully academic scales whose bonds are soon broken, yielding this “argument” and the last hurrah to the flute. The closing “Lento rubato” is memorable as the flautist finally soars into the top rather than merely arriving. Then we are rewarded with a slow “Valse à la Satie” and all is harmoniously resolved.
The closing set of Brandon’s Four Spanish Dances was originally scored for saxophones. This quantum colour shift seems, well, much more Spanish, yet its driving sections (all but the lusty Flamenco) frequently revealed some ensemble deficiencies (measured in microseconds to be sure) that robbed the result of unanimous crispness. Similarly in the rhapsodic moments, an extra ounce of trust to just let it go could have raised the performances into a very special realm.
By far and away the most satisfying work of this compilation of miniatures (26 movements in all) is Jan Truhlar’s Sonatina Semplice. Here the duo excelled in every measure: the guitar’s concise, precise warm tone melding as one with the richly hued flute. Smiles all around for the aptly named “Allegretto con umore’s” harmonic/melodic/rhythmic twists and turns; the flute’s doleful declamation in the opening measures of the “Andante” was superb, finally giving way to a brief homage à Rodrigo that set the stage for the playful zip of the “Allegro scherzoso.”
From Jacques Ibert came Entr’acte (displaying the guitarist’s sensitivity and skill as accompanist) and Paraboles (notably the opener which immediately grabs music by the horns and sends it into the ring). Eugene Bozza provided Berceuse et Serenade (with a seemingly better reverb adjustment in the former and a marvellous “Invitation to the Dance” in the latter) and Trois Pièces (a succinct gem that pushes and pulls the music in countless directions and morphs a further Rodrigo reference into a theme for the finale).
The album opens with Southwestern Suite—a Duozona commission from Brandon which explores a variety of forms and styles that doesn’t hesitate to add the guitar to the percussion section, displays beautifully voiced structures (the flute need not always be on top) and some refreshing turns of tonality that clearly demonstrate there’s life in cadences and chords yet!
Aptly entitled “Colors,” this CD lives up to its promise in more ways than one. JWR