Classicopia’s “Summer Sonata Series” has presented clarinetist Frederick Lemmon, violinist Tim Schwarz, and now flutist Sergio Pallottelli. It will conclude next week with cellist Anna Wittstruck. Each of the four concerts is presented three or four times at different venues including private houses, the Altamont Theater in Asheville, and White Horse Black Mountain.
Sergio Pallottelli, an Italian-born flutist, has been concertizing from a base in Connecticut for the past eleven years and is currently in the process of relocating to Houston, Texas. Like Classicopia’s music director and resident pianist Daniel Weiser, Pallottelli has a passion for chamber music. This program included both well-known and rarely-heard examples of music for flute and piano. For a number of years, Pallottelli has been making concert tours in South America, and the final two works on this program were by South American composers.
First up was Robert Stallman’s transcription for flute of Felix Mendelssohn’s youthful Violin Sonata in F minor, Op. 4. The piece carries all of the lyricism we associate with Mendelssohn and shows the youth of the composer only in the first movement, constructed a little self-consciously. The entire sonata works beautifully on the flute, especially the second movement (poco adagio), which was milked for all it was worth by these players. Maybe a little overmilked, but Mendelssohn can survive the full romantic treatment, and I enjoyed it. The third movement, a rondo marked allegro agitato, was a charming romp.
Next came Francis Poulenc’s Flute Sonata, one of the staples of the flute repertoire since its 1957 premiere by Jean-Pierre Rampal. The three movements are marked Allegretto malincolico, Cantilena: Assez lent, and Presto giocoso. The Cantilena, which Pallottelli performed well, has one of the most hauntingly beautiful themes in all twentieth-century French music. In the center of that movement lies a passage at increased tempo. This performance had problems at that point. Weiser sped up in an abrupt, forced, and inappropriate manner. Pallottelli chose to join in the grossly overdone accelerando. His other choice would have been to play it correctly and destroy the sense of ensemble. The two outer movements were performed in an exemplary fashion.
A “Rigoletto Fantasia” by nineteenth-century flutist Wilhelm Popp completed the first half of the program.
Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio is written for flute, piano, bass, and drums. The first movement, “Baroque and Blue,” was performed without the rhythm instruments. The movement begins with a baroque theme on flute followed by a jazz riff on piano. Thematic material then bounces between the two instruments, which gradually infect each other’s style to fuse the two genres. Bolling’s jazz is formally composed and somewhat akin to Oscar Peterson in its sound. The choice of this work for a cabaret setting was opportune.
Brenno Blauth was a “gaucho” (born in the Rio Grande do Sul, in the south of Brazil near the boundary with Argentina and Uruguay) and is best known for his Concertino for Oboe and Strings. Pallottelli performed Blauth’s Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op. 5, in what was probably the work’s North Carolina premiere. The first movement is impressionistic, with a Latin pulse. The second movement, Elegie, is chorale-like with only a touch of syncopation except that the trio definitely has a Latin feel. The final movement is very exuberant. This is a work that deserves to be heard more often.
The final work was Histoire du Tango, a late work by well-known Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla. The work (originally for flute and guitar) reflects on the history of the tango through four movements at thirty-year intervals. Pallottelli and Weiser gave us the middle two movements: "Café 1930" (the full-blown traditional Tango) and "Nightclub 1960" (with jazz elements that led to Tango Nuevo). This piece by a composer who fused traditional Latin music with jazz and classical elements was a most appropriate finale for a chamber music concert in a cabaret.