Wednesday 15 August 2018

Exploring advanced techniques: Sara Minelli's New Resonances

Sara Minelli - New resonances for flute - EMA
Alessandro Solbiati, Bryan Ferneyhough, Jonathan Cole, Salvatore Sciarrino, Alessandro Magini; Sara Minelli; EMA Vinci contemporanea Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 31 July 2018 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
Challenging both listener and player, a disc of contemporary music for solo flute

This new disc from Italian flautist Sara Minelli on EMA Vinci contemporanea showcases new writing for the solo flute, with seven contemporary works, many of them written for Minelli. On the disc are Alessandro Solbiati's Anthos (2016) for alto flute, written for Minelli, Bryan Ferneyhough's Cassandra's Dream Song (1970) for flute, Jonathan Cole's 50 Florentine Breaths (2016) for flute, written for Minelli, Solbiati's As if to land (1989) for flute, Salvatore Sciarrino's Come vengono prodotti gli incantasimi? (1985) for flute, Alessandro Magini's Nova (2016) for flute and electronics, written for Minelli, and Matteo Giuliani's Oltre (Narcissus) (2016) for alto flute and electronics, written for Minelli. Five of the tracks are world premiere recordings.

The disc is very much a compendium of advanced flute playing techniques, with pitch and harmony often playing a minimal role in the music, instead were are exploring rhythms and textures, creating evocative soundscapes full of breaths, tappings, eerie notes and the fascinating half-world between pitched and unpitched.

What is fascinating is the commonality between the various pieces.
It is clear that a work like Ferneyhough's Cassandra's Dream Song was not only ground-breaking (it was considered unplayable at first until premiered by Pierre Yves Artaud in 1974), but the piece forms the basis for much of the exploration of the extended techniques used by the younger composers. So Ferneyhough mixes pitched and unpitched, using phonics, tapping and other techniques in a rhapsodic manner, with fast flurries of notes. Sciarrino's piece is almost entirely unpitched and is an exploration, sometimes quite dramatic, of pure texture.

Both of Solbiati's pieces have a sparseness and quiet intensity, and both use a mixture of pitched and unpitched, Anthos giving is sparely placed individual notes whereas As if to land has the closest thing to a melody on the disc. Jonathan Cole's 50 Florentine Breaths is just that, a piece about what can be achieved just with the breath. Pitch is barely present, and you get a real sense of someone (Minelli) breathing.

The final two works add electronics to the mix. Magini's Nove really gives us a sense of multiple lines (both pitched and unpitched), whereas Giuliani's Oltre (Narcissus) adds atmospheric electronics to create a really thoughtful piece.

Sara Minelli is a London-based Italian flautist, and on this disc, she shows her technical skills off in a superb manner. None of the requirements of the various pieces seems to disturb her, and the result is a digest of dazzling advanced techniques. My problem with the music on the disc is that sometimes the pieces feel too much like advanced studies. If you remove pitch and harmony from the mix, relying on rhythm and pure texture, then it is a challenge to create a satisfying musical whole.

So, the challenge for the listener is to try and listen with new ears, concentrating on what is present and seeing what each composer achieves.

Alessandro Sobiati - Anthos (2016)
Brian Ferneyhough - Cassandra's Dream Song (1970)
Jonathan Cole - 50 Florentine Breaths (2016)
Alessandro Solbiati - As if to land (1989(
Salvatore Sciarrino - Come vengono prodotti gli incantesimi? (1985)
Alessandro Magini - Nove (2016)
Matteo Giuliani - Oltre (Narcissus) (2016)
Sara Minelli (flute/alto flute)
EMA Vinci contemporanea 700121 1CD
Available from Amazon.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Leaving on a high: final revival of Jan Philipp Gloger's production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer at the Bayreuth Festival  (★★★★★)  - Opera review
  • Prom 42: the first Estonian orchestra at the Proms - Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra (★★★★½)  - concert review
  • A strong message on anti-semitism: Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Bayreuth Festival  (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Edward Lambert's new Lorca-inspired chamber opera at Tête à Tête (★★½)  - Opera review
  • Still relevant & still controversial: Alex Mills' Dear Marie Stopes at the Wellcome Collection (★★★★½)  - Opera review
  • Politics, music and tonality: Keith Burstein and The Prometheus Revolution - interview
  • Small scale challenge: studio performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor from Fulham Opera (★★★½)  - opera review
  • Calen-O: songs from the North of Ireland from Carolyn Dobbin & Iain Burnside (★★★★½) - CD review
  • Prom 34: rare Barber & Copland in Juanjo Mena's leave-taking at the BBC Proms (★★★★) - concert review
  • Musical memoir: Tom Smail's Blue Electric at Tête à Tête  (★★★) - opera review
  • An uneasy mix: politics, spirituality and melody in Keith Burstein's new opera at Grimeborn  (★★★) - opera review
  • Jonas Kaufmann as Wagner’s Parsifal at the Munich Opera Festival (★★★★) - opera review
  • Piecing together the new opera Dear Marie Stopes  - guest post from composer Alex Mills
  • Home

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