Richard Sherman performs a “French Potpourri

Amelia Perron

Flutist Richard Sherman gave a “French Potpourri” recital Monday, May 5, drawing from a wide range of French repertoire and showcasing technical ease and musical panache. Sherman shared his expertise Tuesday in a master class with the flute studio.
Sherman, a professor at the University of Michigan and principal flutist of the Chautauqua and Lansing Symphony Orchestra, has had a notable performing career, including being principal flute of the Rochester Philharmonic and appearing with such orchestras as the Chicago and Detroit Symphonies, not to mention numerous awards, recitals, master classes, and recordings. He is a sought-after professor, making him, as senior flutist Lindsey Semph puts it, “someone you should know about.”
Sherman is a spry, lively man, nervous and succinct when speaking to the audience, but dynamic and vivid when playing. His mastery of the instrument is quickly surpassed by his dramatic renderings of the pieces, and his subtle nuances bring the musical dialogue out from the wash of lush sonorities.
The variety of his program — works by Caplet, Marais, Dutilleux, Milhaud, Camus, and Fauré, representing the 17th through the 20th centuries — was very satisfyingly delivered, with the different compositional styles being represented by markedly different playing styles.
“He had such a palette of colors,” remarked senior oboist Andy Olson. “There was a huge difference between the colors of his first and second pieces [Caplet and Marais].”
Added Semph, “His color changes were excellent and stylistically appropriate.”
As all the listeners noted, his varied palette featured an impressive range of dynamics, from the controlled and lovely pianos to the dramatic fortes, which he used to draw out the musical lines and ideas.
Throughout his breadth of expression, he maintained a consistently pleasing tone. “He has a fabulous sound,” Professor of Music and Teacher of Oboe Howard Niblock noted, “especially for French pieces — he plays with such lightness and delicacy.”
He did not lack for technique, effortlessly breezing through a number of rapid and demanding passages in many of the works. His ornamentation was tossed off with such ease — almost excessive ease — that the musical line was able to glide along comfortably, never stumbling over the tangles of notes.
“I was very impressed by his control,” observed Semph, “especially in the quiet passages.”
And for a finishing touch, “the E-naturals in the Marais were perfectly in tune!” Niblock raved, in a tone that made clear what an accomplishment that might be.
The performance was consistently engaging, and thoughtfully and musically performed. As one friendly older audience member remarked on the way out, “If you didn’t like flute before, you sure would now.