Last updateFri, 12 Jul 2019 7am

Delving into an upcoming Northern Lights’ jewel

I would like to share a few thoughts with you related to the upcoming concert  “The Golden Flute” to be presented in Villa Wilshere on Wednesday, February 20, which I am very much looking forward to attending, partly because of the unique program and partly because of the wonderful musicians who will be playing it.

pg35Let’s begin with Canadian flutist Susan Hoeppner, well known to Ajijic audiences for her 15 seasons as a performer in the Northern Lights Festival de Febrero. We who have heard her love her beautiful sound and spontaneous musicality; also impressive is her vast repertoire, from concertos with orchestra to chamber music and sonatas.  She has performed as guest soloist with numerous orchestras around the world and has been invited to perform at many Canadian Embassies including London, Belgrade, Tokyo and Mexico, and has inspired renowned Canadian composers Christos Hatzis and Gary Kulesha among others to write pieces for her.  As a graduate of The Juilliard School, Susan has become an esteemed mentor.   She teaches at the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School, The Taylor Academy for young gifted artists and the University of Toronto. Every summer she gives classes and performances at Le Domaine Forget in Québec, Canada and Campus Internazionale della Musica d’Arte (CIMA) in Italy. It will be a treat to hear her once again.

Susan will be joined by two other excellent musicians: Colombian-born soprano Analis Avilan Castillo, who attended the Queen Elizabeth Music chapel in Belgium where she studied with famed baritone José Van Dam.  Also playing will be Raffi Altourian, professor of guitar at the Conservatory of Music in Toronto.  A little-known fact about Raffi is that he auditioned for and got the part of a classical guitar player in the 2014 movie “Robocop” and did a scene with Gary Oldman. However, he is much more well-known as a classical concert and recording artist.



One of the interesting composers on the program is John Corigliano, born in New York in 1938. Possibly because his father (also John) was concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, most of his music is for symphony orchestra.  He also wrote for film, notably “Altered States” and “The Red Violin”, for which he won the Oscar for Best Soundtrack in 1999.  In this case we will hear the Three Irish Folksong Settings for voice and flute.   These songs sound truly folkloric and there is a well-crafted and very attractive interplay between the voice and flute.  The texts are by W.B. Yeats, “Down by the Salley Gardens”, the anonymous “The Foggy Dew” and Paidric Collum’s “She Moved Through the Fair”.  I spoke to Susan the other day and she said that she loves these songs, and that they have a clear Irish feeling except for some quirky harmonies.

Still in the realm of folklore next we have “Sephardic Songs” for voice, flute and guitar by the Spanish composer Manuel Valls (1920-1984). Valls wrote for a wide variety of genres including film scores, winning the prize for Best Soundtrack from the Spanish Circle of Film Writers for “The Burned City” in 1976.  This set of songs has a very Jewish flavor and a range of emotions from deep melancholy to playful gaiety.

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) wrote one of the most fascinating and moving melodies of all time in his Bachianas Basileiras No. 5 for soprano and eight cellos, by far his most famous work.  The cellos open with a melody in pizzicato, beautiful in its own right, and then the voice enters in a vocalise which is absolutely unforgettable, both sensual and heart rending.  The version we will hear is for soprano, flute and guitar, and it will be interesting to listen to their arrangement.

Finally we come to Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) and my favorite piece for flute and guitar, “Histoire du Tango” in four movements that portray the history of the tango: “Bordello”, 1900, “Café”, 1930, “Night Club”, 1960 and “Modern Day Concert”, which sounds radically different from the other three pieces.  Susan commented: “This piece never ceases to amaze and fascinate me, and it’s been a lot of fun putting this program together.  Like all beautiful music, this touches a place within us that we’re not even aware is there.”

Dr. Charles Nath has been a part of the musical world of Guadalajara since 1988, with 26 years as principal clarinetist of the Jalisco Philharmonic as well as many chamber music presentations. He also wrote a column on music for the Informador newspaper and made numerous music appreciation presentations on radio and television.

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