Music review: Flute and piano make a real French connection

Courtesy Capital City Concerts Pianist Jeffrey Chappell, pictured, and flutist Karen Kevra performed a program honoring Louis Moyse in Brattleboro and Montpelier.

MONTPELIER — Sunday’s recital at the Unitarian Church by Karen Kevra and Jeffrey Chappell was two things that flute and piano recitals almost never are — deep and compelling. Capital City Concerts was paying tribute to its inspiration, French-Vermont flutist, pianist and composer Louis Moyse (1912-2007), who co-founded Marlboro Music Festival and spent his last years in Montpelier. Kevra, of Cornwall, was Moyse’s protégée, and Chappell, who lives outside Washington, D.C., was coached by him many times for his performances on this series. (The program was also performed Friday at the Brattleboro Music Center.) Appropriately, the most moving moment was a work by Moyse, the only one on the program. Lyrical and expressive flute against a dark and dramatic and highly articulated piano marked Variation IV of Moyse’s Introduction, Theme and Variations. Kevra’s languid sound and Chappell’s assertive but sensitive touch and their deep passion for this music revealed it to be a masterpiece. Another work, an established masterpiece that received a sublime performance was Maurice Ravel’s (1875-1937) “Jeux d’eau (Fountains)” for solo piano. Chappell proved a master in this demanding work, playing with a clear and virtuosic articulation evoking its dramatic arc resulting in an exciting and deeply sensual performance. The second part of the program was devoted to “Flute Music of French Composers,” Moyse’s collection of 10 Paris Conservatory virtuoso competition pieces, the world’s most popular book of flute music. Kevra and Chappell, who were coached in this music by Moyse, will soon be recording it. At intermission, the audience selected by ballot four of the 10 pieces, which were then performed. Among those selected, most familiar was Gabriel Fauré’s (1845-1924) Fantaisie, Op. 79. The deceptively simple first part, with its gorgeous French film-like theme, moves into rapid-fire virtuosity. More substantial was the Concertino, Op. 107, by Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944) — yes, a woman composer! Opening with a brilliant and warm lyricism, again with a decidedly French accent, it takes off into a spunky, quirky virtuosity that is a delight. The performances were expert, promising a most rewarding recording. The program opened with two works Moyse performed often, the Sonata in G Major, Op. 2, No. 1 (“L’Henriette) by French Baroque composer Michel Blavet (1700-1767) and the Sonata by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). (I had the pleasure of hearing Moyse play both these works, both parts of the latter, though not simultaneously.) Kevra’s playing reflected Moyse’s influence, with a languid sound she manipulated for expression, digging into the deepest meaning of the work. Chapell, with his virtuosic technique, too reflected Moyse with his subtle nuance and sublime expressiveness. Honoring a master, it was a concert by masters.   Capital City Concerts Capital City Concerts will present “Formosa Folk,” the Formosa Quartet in music of Dana Wilson, Wei-Chieh Lin and Dvorak, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Middlebury, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier. For tickets or information, go online to www.capitalcityconcerts.org.

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