I had the pleasure of attending the guest flute recital on Monday, Oct. 31, given by Rebecca Johnson, renowned flutist and professor at Eastern Illinois University. I was incredibly interested in the concert before going, and I also had lots of questions. Flute repertoire is so expansive, so I was unsure what I would be seeing. Would I hear mostly classical repertoire with a piano accompaniment, or newer music written for flute and electronics? After walking into Harper Hall, it was evident that the modern repertoire would be played.
While I have heard many flute works with electronics and many classical flute works, I have not heard many pieces written for unaccompanied flute in a modern style.
Johnson opened the recital with “Soliloquy” by Lowell Liebermann. After describing the ins and outs of the piece, she began playing. In the first few lines of the piece, one could hear Johnson’s aptitude and affection for the flute—she played clear, melodic lines as if they were clouds in the sky, seemingly effortlessly, and conveyed extremely well the mysterious mood of the piece. After “Soliloquy” she played “Ainava ar putniem” or “Landscape with birds” from Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks. Through this piece, Johnson was able to clearly show the full range of the flute through a mixture of extended and classical technique as she demonstrated a variety of textures and intensities through lyricism.
Johnson’s next pieces were two of Paganini’s “24 Caprices.” She described these as the most classical pieces on the program but talked about their intricacies as they were transcribed for flute from violin. After Paganini, she moved to the avant-garde with Luciano Berio’s “Sequenza,” a piece demonstrating Johnson’s versatility on her instrument.
“Sequenza” brought flashes of bright colors and bursts of pure energy from the flute—painting a massive picture that engulfed the hall.
The final pieces Johnson played were Elaine Fine’s “On Such a Winter’s Day” and three “Tango-Etudes” composed by Astor Piazzolla. While “On Such a Winter’s Day” brought intense feeling to the audience due to dissonance, Johnson demonstrated superior rhythm through the Tango-Etudes.
As a pianist, it is not unlikely for me to skip a guest recital in a different instrument because of the lack of piano and lack of requirement for my major. However, I learned from Johnson’s recital how easy it is to attend guest recitals that will ultimately change your perspective on music through the experience and program selection of the performer. Through Rebecca Johnson’s versatility on the flute as a solo instrument, I was able to learn a massive amount.