Classical, Early Music, New Music
Reviewed by Alistair Noble, December 1st, 2015
Australia has a long tradition of strong flute playing, going back several generations. Among the leading younger inheritors of the tradition is the Melbourne-based Lina Andonovska, who has been building a solid reputation both nationally and overseas. She is a highly versatile musician, comfortable across a range of styles, most notably in the area of contemporary and experimental music. In this CD recording, we hear Andonovska in more mainstream concert repertoire, a field in which we might say that she has the highest credentials based upon the evidence of this CD alone.
In J S Bach’s A minor Partita, for solo flute, Andonovska projects a bright, big modern sound—but with a suitable sensitivity to the period and style. This is a convincing and technically assured performance of a beautiful but problematic work—problematic in so far as someone should probably have told Bach that flute players need to breathe. As wonderful as Bach’s music is, it does have some weaknesses, and one of them is his tendency to write for wind instruments and voices as though they were fiddles, with endless streams of notes and phrases that run into one another without pause. Andonovska makes light of these challenges, however, and projects the dance movements with grace and character.
For Bohuslav Martinu’s Trio for flute, cello and piano, Andonovska is joined by cellist Rachael Tobin and pianist Ying Ho. Together, they make a formidable team, giving a performance that is powerfully wrought, tightly coherent, and expressive. There are some lovely moments in this piece, and like much of Martinu’s chamber music it has a distinctive texture that stems largely from his approach to piano writing. Composed during the darkest days of the Second World War, it might seem inappropriately jolly and cheerful in mood… and yet this derives from the composer’s nostalgic turn towards the children’s songs and nursery rhymes of his home country, Czechoslovakia, for inspiration—perhaps looking back to happier times and a home lost forever.
This CD recital closes with the Sonata for Flute and Piano by Carl Vine, a vigorously virtuosic work that makes much of minimalist-inspired repetitions, ostinatos, and neo-classic harmonies. It’s a show-stopper of a piece in some ways, especially when played with such brilliant assurance as here, where Andonovska is joined by the terrific young pianist Kimberley Steele. Despite the flashiness of this ‘New York comes to Australia’ style of music that was so popular here in the 1990s, there is something very conservative about it. It is curious, after all, that it was precisely when the minimalist movement in the USA had gone mainstream during the 1980s, turning away to a large extent from its radical roots of the 1960s toward integration with neo-classical forms in the concert hall and Hollywood in movie soundtracks, that Australian composers (not just Vine, but a whole raft of them) suddenly jumped on the band-wagon. Still, this does at least make it characteristic of its time, for better and worse.
As a recital of solo and chamber music for flute, this disc represents a superlatively high-quality piece of work, with wonderful performances recorded with convincing presence. I understand that it may have been made as an independently released demo, but it is well worth tracking down a copy for the fine playing alone, which deserves to be widely heard.