Annie Wu & Feng Niu

Flute and Piano

November 19, 2017, 4 PM

The Warne Ballroom at the Cosmos Club

Born in California, Annie Wu first appeared at Carnegie Hall at age 12, as the youngest winner of the National Flute Association’s High School Soloist Competition. Since then she has developed a solo career alongside studies at Harvard and the New England Conservatory, and she works regularly with pianist Feng Niu. Their recital celebrates important flute and piano works by American composers alongside a rarely-heard sonata by the great French flutist Philippe Gaubert, and an arrangement of Debussy’s sultry and epoch-making Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, the work which Pierre Boulez considered to be the beginning of modern music.

PROGRAM:

ELDIN BURTON (1913-1979)
Sonatina for Flute and Piano
     Allegretto grazioso
     Andantino sognando
     Allegro giocoso; quasi fandango

CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (arr. for Flute and Piano by Karl Lenski)      

PHILIPPE GAUBERT (1879-1941)
Sonata No. 1 for Flute and Piano
     Modéré - Allegretto vivo
     Lent - Allegretto moderato - Tempo I
     Allegro moderato

INTERMISSION

ROBERT BEASER (b. 1954)
Variations for Flute and Piano
     Theme and Variations (Variations 1-5)
     Nocturne (Variations 6-10)
     Con fuoco (Variations 11-15)

HENRI DUTILLEUX (1916-2013)
Sonatine for flute and piano                       


Please note that this concert takes place at the Cosmos Club, 2121 Massachusetts Ave., NW.

Dress Code at the Cosmos Club:
Gentlemen are expected to wear jackets, dress slacks, a collared long-sleeved shirt (tucked-in) or turtleneck at all times.

Ladies are expected to dress in an equivalent fashion, which means dresses, suits, skirts or dress slacks with jackets or tops of equivalent formality. Leggings or tights, unless worn with skirts, dresses, or long jackets, are not considered to be of equivalent formality.

Military uniforms and national dress of equivalent formality are also acceptable.

Sweat suits or other athletic or sports attire, jeans or other denim garments, sneakers, flip-flops, athletic footwear and shorts are never acceptable in the public rooms.

Of flutist Annie Wu, The Mercury News said, “This artist, it seems, can do anything.” Born in 1996, Wu first received national recognition at the age of 15 as the First Prize winner of the National Flute Association’s 2011 High School Soloist Competition. She is a winner of Astral’s 2015 National Auditions, as well as the First Prize winner of the James Pappoutsakis Flute Competition, Yamaha Young Performing Artist Competition, and YoungArts National Competition, and a 2014 US Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Wu has performed concerti with the Vienna International Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, California Symphony, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, Livermore Amador Symphony, Diablo Symphony Orchestra, and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. As an orchestral flutist, she was a Fellow at the Music Academy of the West, and is an active substitute with the New World Symphony. After winning the special prize at the 2011 National Flute Association’s High School Soloist Competition for the Best Performance of a Commissioned Work–Greg Pattillo’s Three Beats for Beatbox Flute–the composer’s YouTube posting of Wu’s performance has received over two million hits, and its online success has led to performances of the work for the Boston Celebrity Series, a JIVE Company Conference in Las Vegas, and a TED TALK Conference in Vancouver. Wu is currently enrolled in the five-year Dual Degree Program at Harvard University and the New England Conservatory of Music; she will earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Literature from Harvard College and a Master of Music degree in Flute Performance from NEC.

A native of Shenyang, China, Feng Niu began studying piano at the age of seven, and made her first public performance at the Shenyang Concert Hall just four years later. The winner of numerous competition honors, Niu was awarded First Prize from the Yamaha National Piano Competition, Second Prize from the Lany Sur Marne International Piano Competition, and Third Prize from the Hong Kong Young Pianist Competition. As the First Prize winner of Yamaha Asia Piano Scholarship, she performed the Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor with the Suzhou Philharmonic Orchestra. She has also been featured on concert series for the Shanghai International Spring Music Festival and Shanghai Conservatory. Niu graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 2008 and received her Master of Music degree in Piano Performance, with honors, from the New England Conservatory of Music in 2014, where she studied with Gabriel Chodos. She currently pursues Doctoral studies at the New England Conservatory with Pei-shan Lee.

Some of the most exciting flute repertoire comes from France and the US, and this concert places the two sound worlds side by side. We start in New York with Eldin Burton’s Juilliard homework assignment that became a staple in the American flute repertoire. Then, we enter Debussy’s imaginative take on Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s Afternoon of a Faun, which weaves a French dreamland of lust and passion. And of course, Phillipe Gaubert’s Sonata No. 1 is a nod to the great Paris Conservatory, where a tradition of flutist-composers and flute competitions created a vast new repertoire. The central work on the program will be living American composer Robert Beaser’s Variations for flute and piano, a powerhouse piece that shows the endless possibilities nascent in a simple theme. We end with one of the great French virtuoso works of the 20th century, Henri Dutilleux’s Sonatine. Our program “An American in Paris” showcases the incredible range of the flute’s voice, as well as the distinctive powers of both the French and American traditions.

-Annie Wu, 2017

Eldin Burton, Sonatina for Flute and Piano
Thomas Eldin Burton was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia and began his musical career there, graduating from the Atlanta Conservatory of Music in 1938. He quickly made an impact. In Georgia: The WPA Guide to its Towns and Countryside, published in 1940, Burton is listed among the contemporary musicians with “more than local reputation,” and his compositions for piano and voice are described as “outstanding in their field.” In 1943, Burton went to the Juilliard Graduate School, completing his studies with honors in composition. The Sonatina is by far his best-known work and the story goes that its origins were some piano pieces that Burton played to the flutist Samuel Baron, a fellow student at Juilliard. Baron suggested that Burton should rework these piano pieces for flute and piano and the result was the Sonatina, which Burton dedicated to Baron. It is possible that they gave a student performance of the work, though there is no record of a public concert in the Juilliard archives. Thanks to the exhaustive researches into the work’s origins by Nancy Toff, we now know that the first performance took place at City Center, New York, on January 30, 1949, given by Baron and Burton. A month earlier, The New York Times announced that it had won the composition contest of the New York Flute Club, for a “major work” for flute and piano. The first prize was $100 and a publishing contract. Burton faced competition from over 100 other entrants, all of which had to be submitted anonymously. The Sonatina was published by Carl Fischer in 1949 and has remained in the repertoire ever since. Burton continued to compose, and Nancy Toff mentions a Flute Concerto from 1964, available on rental from Carl Fischer. He retired to Sarasota, Florida, and is buried in his home state of Georgia.

Claude Debussy, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (arr. for Flute and Piano by Karl Lenski)
Inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem, the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (“Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”) was first performed on December 22, 1894 in Paris, conducted by Gustave Doret. The solo flute at that premiere was Georges Barrère, who moved to New York in 1905 to play for Walter Damrosch’s orchestra and where he remained for the rest of his life. The Prélude à l’après-midi is one of those few works that can be said to have marked a turning point in musical history: Pierre Boulez wrote that “the flute of the faune introduced a new breath into the art of music,” while Percy Grainger called it “one of the few great works of all time.” Its fluidity of form and understated ingenuity immediately established Debussy as one of the most progressive musical voices of his time. Karl Lenski’s arrangement for flute and piano is derived in part from the earliest surviving version of the Prélude à l’après-midi. This is an autograph short score (later in the collection of Alfred Cortot) and the flute part is based on it. The piano part derives largely from Debussy’s own two-piano version of the work.

Philippe Gaubert, Sonata No. 1 for Flute and Piano
Philippe Gaubert was a distinguished composer, conductor and flutist. As a player, he took part in the first performance of Ravel’s Introduction et Allegro in 1907. During World War I he served with distinction and fought at the Battle of Verdun (earning the Croix de Guerre). In 1919 Gaubert took up the two posts that were to place him at the apex of Parisian musical life. He was appointed chief conductor of the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire and in October the same year he became professor of flute at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included Marcel Moyse. In 1920, Gaubert became chief conductor at the Paris Opéra. Throughout his busy career, as a solo flute player and then conductor, Gaubert continued to compose. He wrote three flute sonatas. The first of them was composed 1904 and revised in 1917. When it was published by Durand in 1918, it bore a printed dedication to the memory of Paul Taffanel, Gaubert’s legendary teacher. In a copy inscribed to another Taffanel pupil in 1931, Gaubert wrote “In memory of our great and revered teacher Paul Taffanel, whose noble style has never been equaled, neither as a flute player, nor as a teacher on the conductor’s podium.” This eloquent tribute makes clear the extent to which Taffanel was Gaubert’s musical mentor. The sonata is an impressive memorial, written in a musical language that owes something to the work of Debussy and Ravel, but that also echoes the fluency of Saint-Saëns and the modal inflections of Fauré. In the first movement most of the melodic material at the start is given to the flute, over rippling piano figurations. Later musical ideas are shared in a more balanced dialogue, and the movement ends with a delightfully whimsical gesture. The second movement begins slowly, with a more animated central section and a return to the opening. The tenderness of Gaubert’s music, and its harmonic richness, are notable features of this movement. The third movement is the longest of the three. Starting with a seemingly simple theme on the flute (over shifting chromatic chords), Gaubert develops his idea (slightly reminiscent of César Franck) with great skill to produce an impressive finale that ends delicately and quietly.

Robert Beaser, Variations for Flute and Piano
Robert Beaser was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Yale University. His principal composition teachers have included Jacob Druckman, Earle Brown, Toru Takemitsu, and Goffredo Petrassi. From 1988 until 1993 he was the Composer-in-Residence with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and now serves as ACO’s Artistic Director. Since 1993, Beaser has been Professor and Chairman of the Composition Department at the Juilliard School in New York. Beaser’s Variations for Flute and Piano consists of 15 variations that are divided into three larger sections. The work was commissioned by the New York flutist Susan Rotholz who gave the first performance on February 23, 1982, in the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, with Leslie Sixfin as the pianist. Beaser’s musical language is inventive, beautifully crafted but rooted in conventional tonality. The New York Times wrote in 1982 that he displayed a “lyrical gift comparable to that of the late Samuel Barber.” That seems a very apt description for the Variations–a substantial work in which his gifts for melody and a range of musical mood and color are apparent throughout. The opening has a mood of stillness and tranquility but this is soon disrupted as the composer starts to make formidable technical demands on his players and to explore the possibilities of his material. Beaser is a composer who inspires confidence in the future of broadly tonal music: his is an original voice with roots in the great American tradition.

Henri Dutilleux, Sonatine for Flute and Piano
Dutilleux composed his Sonatine for Flute and Piano in 1943, as a test piece for the end-of-year exams at the Paris Conservatoire (between 1942 and 1950 he also composed test pieces for bassoon, oboe, and trombone). But this work quickly transcended its original purpose as a competition piece to become part of the recital repertoire: its formal premiere in the concert hall was given on January 17, 1944, at the Triptyque concerts, played by Gaston Crunelle (professor of flute at the Paris Conservatoire and the work’s dedicatee) with the composer himself at the piano. Dutilleux was a notoriously self-critical composer and in later life came to regret the popularity of the Sonatine, considering it unrepresentative of his mature style. In 1977 he spoke about its origins. The work was, he said, one of those “commissioned by Claude Delvincourt, then the director of the Conservatoire. He had a double aim: to make young composers explore instrumental technique (you can’t write any old thing for young

players) and, at the same time, to force instrumental students to work on new scores, which Delvincourt wanted to be full of traps and technical difficulties. This is how I came to write, one after the other, pieces for bassoon, flute, oboe, and trombone; the flute piece is the Sonatine.” It is in three sections that are played as one continuous movement. The Allegretto begins with a theme on the flute, full of mystery, set in 7/8 time against a spiky piano accompaniment. A cadenza leads to the second section, a tender and lyrical Andante. The final Animé is marked by constant rapid movement in sixteenth-notes that seem to be thrown to the piano to flute and back again. A short cadenza brings recollections of themes from all three sections before the exhilarating conclusion.

-Nigel Simeone, 2017