Orchestra’s principal flutist to be soloist in Bach suite

Flutist Yvonne Hansbrough is looking forward to the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturd

Flutist Yvonne Hansbrough is looking forward to the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturday. She has been the orchestra’s principal flutist for four years, but this will be the first time she will perform as a soloist with the orchestra.

“It’s so nice to get an opportunity to solo,” she said. “I’ve been practicing my part for months.”

Glens Falls Symphony

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Hudson Falls High School, 80 East La Barge St., Hudson Falls

HOW MUCH: $25, $10.

MORE INFO: 793-1348 or visit www.gfso.org

Hansbrough initially was preparing to perform Jacques Ibert’s formidable Flute Concerto, a technically difficult and splashy work that separates good flutists from excellent ones. But with a difficult and tricky orchestra part and a limited rehearsal schedule, the Ibert was switched to next season, said conductor Charles Peltz.

“Yvonne and I discussed the usual substitutes: the Griffes’ ‘Poem’, the Mozart concertos,” Peltz said.

Mutual choice

Both decided on J. S. Bach’s Suite in B minor. Although it would be new for the orchestra, Peltz said he felt it could do a convincing performance of the piece and it would fit in perfectly with the other work on the program: Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5.

“It will be a dance program with the codified 18th century dances of the Bach, and the Prokofiev has elements of the ballet,” he said.

Hansbrough was thrilled with the choice.

“Every flute player has experience with the Bach,” she said. “I am excited.”

She has performed as principal flute with the Las Cruces, N.M., orchestra, played with orchestras in Nashville, Albany and Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, and done chamber music at Piccolo Spoleto Music Festival, but this is the first time she’ll perform the Bach. Currently, she teaches at The College of Saint Rose.

Hansbrough listened to several recordings of the work and discovered that every flutist took different tempos.

“There were no metronomic markings in Bach’s era. So I decided on what’s comfortable for me,” she said. “I gave Charles a range of metronomic markings that rehearsal will settle.”

Peltz will use a small string orchestra, and in many sections of the piece, the flute part is in unison with the violins. But that is the challenge.

“The overture is the most complicated,” Hansbrough said. “Breathing is the hardest.”

That’s because she is using her modern metal flute. For most baroque works, she would choose to use her baroque wooden flute, an instrument she learned to play when she studied at Florida State University where she received her Ph.D.

“All the flute students took a semester of baroque flute at the insistence of our teacher, Charles Delaney,” she said. “I loved it. The fact I could play Bach on the instrument of his age meant so much.”

Locally, Hansbrough has used the baroque flute at the Festival of Baroque Music and knows how to navigate around the instrument’s oddities: the different fingerings, the weak notes, the timbre differences, its pitch problems and creating vibrato by wiggling a finger over one of the open tone holes. But the wooden flute is superior to its modern cousin, the metal flute, when it comes to breathing.

“Baroque flute doesn’t need as much air to sustain long passages,” she said. “Modern flute needs more.”

But the orchestra is using modern instruments and not period instruments. So it would have been a struggle, she said, to project her wooden flute over those louder sounds.

Concise program

The program, with only two works, might seem a little slim. That’s deliberate, Peltz said.

“Classical music concerts are overprogrammed. There’s too much music,” he said. “Attention spans are different than they were. Great music well-played requires concentration. By the last movement, ears are tired.”

Music needs to transport people, Peltz said, which is why having a 20-minute first half and a 50-minute second half should work really well.

“The Bach is engaging music that will prepare the audience. For lovers of Rachmaninoff, the symphony will perk their ears up,” he said.

The symphony’s first movement has an icy but angular melody that seethes with an undertow of passion. The second movement has a sense of comedic mischief, and the third with its spicy harmonies will allow his brass players to flex their muscles, he said.

“The wind writing is athletic,” Peltz said. “Mid-nineteenth century writing has a different level of control and listening. Twentieth century is more soloistic and robust. The onus falls on everyone, but the wind players will need to shift gears.”

Peltz has conducted both works before but still prepared by looking at the scores to determine each composer’s intent. The Prokofiev is tricky because the composer sometimes says two different things and other times says the same thing two different ways.

“I map out the large points vertically and horizontally,” Peltz said. “The score is the composer’s letter to you. I seldom listen to other recordings. I need to look at the page itself.”

Over the years, he has discovered he has a special skill.

“I have what I call John Nash [the Nobel Prize mathematician] moments. I see where things are going. I see the patterns,” Peltz said.

With the overall concept established, he can then devote himself to making music.

“It’s the aesthetic that’s important,” he said.

Categories: Life and Arts

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