Flute: a uniquely poignant voice
“When Krishna plays the flute the whole world is filled with love. Rivers stop, stones are illumined, lotus flowers tremble; gazelles, cows, and birds are entranced; demons and ascetics enchanted.”
— The Bhagavata-Purana
Aside from the historical venue of its Memorial Museum music room, set amidst garden-like outdoor aesthetics, one of the most pleasant aspects of the Old Deerfield Sunday Afternoon Concert Series is the sheer variety of its artists and ensembles — with none remotely resembling any other. The forthcoming concert, on Aug. 11 at 3 p.m., is no exception. It features performers Akal Dev Sharonne, flute and Timothy Rogers, piano in a program “celebrating music of many lands and cultures.”
Sharonne comes with a fascinating pedigree embracing traditional studies at the New England Conservatory, from which she received a bachelor’s degree with highest honors, a master’s degree with honors in theory and an artist’s diploma, the highest degree awarded in performance at that time. Among her mentors are the illustrious American flute master Julius Baker and the legendary French flutists Marcel Moyse and Jean-Pierre Rampal.
She must have been in very good form indeed to additionally win the New England Conservatory’s “Night at Pops” competition, which granted her a solo appearance with the Boston Pops in Symphony Hall, Boston.
Sharonne’s career has taken her from the Caribbean islands of St. Croix and St. John to a remote 19th-century village in the south of France, and to the Holocaust memorial in Dachau, Germany. She spent three years as part of North Carolina’s prestigious Visiting Artist Program, bringing her art to many thousands of school children, jail inmates, literacy programs and nursing homes.
Describing herself as “an incorrigible kleptomaniac,” she recorded a CD entitled “Stolen Goods”; a “grand larceny of transcriptions from the string repertoire.” (What else can you do when your love of great music is bigger than your own instrument’s repertoire? As an almost equally kleptomaniacal classical guitarist, I can very well empathize.) Her forthcoming CD, “Out of the Ashes,” celebrates the healing power of music.
By contrast, Rogers, a mild-mannered pianist and sometime composer, bears a far more conventional profile. He teaches at Northfield Mount Hermon School and at Keene State College and has performed at such venues as the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Ozawa Hall in Tanglewood and Symphony Hall in Boston.
Few may realize that, in beholding the seemingly contemporary flute, we are in reality dealing with one of music’s most ancient instrumental lineages. As I’ve mentioned before, its progenitor, the aulos, is found etched on some of the oldest pottery ever to be unearthed. Indeed, a flute made from a vulture wing bone and dated to at least 35,000 years old, was discovered in Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, Germany, and was, at the time, the oldest confirmed find of any musical instrument in history. It was followed by yet other flutes found in Geissenklosterle Cave, which were revealed to be from 42,000 to 43,000 years old.
It is perhaps this blend of incalculable antiquity and wind-blown song that conspire to create the flute’s uniquely poignant voice. It has a mysterious ability to disengage us from time and space and to transport us to ancient landscapes and lifetimes. Such persuasive seductiveness may also account for Sharonne’s inclusion in the program of Moorish, Spanish folk and Hebraic-flavored music: Jacques Ibert’s “Entracte,” originally for flute and classical guitar, the “Adagio on Hebraic Themes” by Max Bruch, and Manuel deFalla’s “Seven Spanish Folk Songs.”
Against these dark, passionate historical compositions will be contrasted a handful of 20th century and contemporary piano works performed by Rogers, including his own set of “Five Sketches for Piano,” a work originally inspired by childhood themes, such as “The Lost Puppy.” Rogers will also offer preludes by Carlos Chavez and Sergei Rachmaninoff and the Etude No. 12 by Chopin.
The balance point between ancient and modern will be Mozart’s “Andante and Rondo,” an acknowledged crowd pleaser. In this light, it is hard to imagine just what might have inspired Mozart to confess to his father, in a letter, “You know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear,” as there is so much that is essentially Mozartean in the flute’s character: lightness, clarity, agility, deftness. Perhaps it was the fact that, as brilliant and pure as the flute can be, it’s natural range, bottoming out at a mere middle C or sometimes B, does not allow for any probing into the deeper strata of sound and the aural relaxation those less vibrant regions confer upon the ear — and through it, the entire nervous system, something which the sensuous but seldom-used alto flute does beautifully.
The Memorial Hall’s music room is located at 8 Memorial St., Deerfield. $10; $5 for students and seniors. For further information, 413-774-3768, ext. 10; http://deerfield-ma.org/.
Hot tip of the week
The final chamber music-packed weekend of the Music at Marlboro summer festival kicks off this Friday, Aug. 9, at 8:30 p.m., with series co-director and pianist Richard Goode accompanying on the Mozart Trio in E-flat Major, K. 498, the “Kegelstatt Trio,” Auerbach’s “Epilogue: Hommage à Edith Wharton” and Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A Minor, Op. 84.
The series continues Saturday, Aug. 10, with Hummel’s String Trio in E-flat Major, Brahms’ beloved “Neue Liebeslieder Walzer” Op. 65, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-sharp Minor, Op. 131.
Marlboro’s final concert, Sunday, Aug. 11, at 2:30 p.m., features Strauss’ “Serenade in E-flat Major,” Op. 7, Beethoven’s String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127, and Beethoven’s “Fantasia for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra” (Choral Fantasy), Op. 80, with David Zinman, conductor, soloists, and the Marlboro chorus and orchestra.
Tickets are $15 to $37.50. Main phone, 802-254-2394; box office, 802-258-9331
An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at email@example.com.