Thursday, October 5, 2017

Andrea Ceccomori’s Flute Recital at IIC

Yesterday evening the Italian Cultural Institute (Istituto Italiano de Cultura, IIC) hosted a solo recital by flutist Andrea Ceccomori. The title of the program was Una Bacchetta per la Pace (a baton for peace). This turned out to be the theme of his current world tour on behalf of an organization based in Assisi dedicated to the cause of world peace. At each stop on the tour, a handmade baton is presented to someone from that location on the basis of his own efforts toward that cause.

As had previously been announced, Ceccomori prepared a program that reflected on both the distant and the recent past. He began with a composition by Georg Philipp Telemann listed only as “fantasia.” Telemann actually wrote twelve fantasias for unaccompanied flute (TWV 40:2–13); but, for most listeners, being specific would not matter very much. The work was a multi-movement piece with a decidedly improvisatory spirit, somewhat in the sense of the keyboard toccatas of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Bach was also on the program but as part of a piece called “Bachiana.” This involved a performance of the Allemande movement from Bach’s only solo flute partita (BWV 1013 in A minor), which was followed by Ceccomori’s own invented elaboration on the content of that Allemande. Those who know the Bach source know that the Allemande, like many of his preludes, amounts to a study of “repetitive structures,” a term best associated with Philip Glass, who preferred it to “minimalism” in describing his work. However, Bach allowed his structures to advance through underlying harmonic progressions, while Glass tended to keep his underlying harmony fixed. Nevertheless, when Ceccomori turned to his own reflection on Bach’s Allemande, he seemed more occupied with this own approaches to repetition; and there were a few hints that he was familiar with at least some of Glass’ tropes.

That familiarity with Glass also seemed to surface in his five short pieces that concluded the program. However, Glass was not the only source of hints of familiarity. The rhythm of “Motu proprio” (on his own impulse) seemed to reflect on the rhythm of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk,” while “Mariposa” (butterfly) offered up a slight suggestion of “Là ci darem la mano,” the seduction duet from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 527 opera Don Giovanni. The program concluded with two pieces inspired by Francis of Assisi based on canticles to the wind and the stars.

Ceccomori introduced “Pwyll” by explaining that its composer, Giacinto Scelsi, was interested in “the sound inside of the sound.” This provided the best opportunity to appreciate the breadth of sonorities that Ceccomori could elicit from his instrument. (In that regard Ceccomori’s own short piece about wind offered an engaging study of the interplay between the sounds of the flute and the sounds of the breath “behind” the making of those flute sounds.)

This attention to the underlying properties of sound itself were also evident in Luciano Chessa’s “Riflesso” (reflection), which was given its premiere performance. There may well have been a double meaning in this title. On the one hand the music seems to be reflecting on the nature of music-making itself. However, there were also suggestions that the sounds themselves emerged from the reflective properties of breath going across the mouthpiece and into the instrument’s tube. Given Chessa’s interest in philosophy, it would not be surprising to encounter this merging of physics and metaphysics in one of his compositions.

More representational was Aldo Brizzi’s “Studio per Krishna,” which was written for Ceccomori. Krishna is often depicted playing the flute:

Indeed, the flute often figures significantly in the stories of his wooing the milkmaid Radha. As was the case with “Mariposa,” the imaginative listener would have no trouble finding hints of seduction behind this depiction of Krishna playing his favored instrument.

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