Woodwind recitals are given much less frequently than those for piano, violin or cello; the sameness of the timbre and the lesser quality of literature will always be hindrances. Flutist Eugenia Zukerman was further limited in her programming Wednesday evening at the National Museum of Women in the Arts by having only a harpsichord to accompany her, thus excluding top-drawer repertoire by Schubert, Poulenc, Prokofiev and Copland.
This narrow scope was less of a drawback than it might have been because of Zukerman’s partner, the virtuoso harpsichordist Anthony Newman.
Newman’s erudition (in spoken introductions) and fastidious digital clarity have marked his performances for decades, and they were on full display here. His solo offering, the Bach “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue,” was the concert’s high point, drawing out every possible shade of expression from the instrument through subtle timing and imaginative register changes.
The duo offered two lovely sonatas, by Anna Amalia (sister of Frederick the Great) and Michel Blavet.
A Mozart sonata originally for violin and piano was not fully successful because balances were off; the keyboard part had to be squeezed down to fit the smaller instrument, and the ornate treble line was often overpowered by the flute. A “Suite Antique” by John Rutter sounded like theme music from a children’s TV show.
Zukerman is a fine musician, as well as a writer, arts administrator and CBS News correspondent. Her embouchure control is not what it once was; the intonation was accurate throughout her range, but notes with sharp attacks did not always appear in the right octave, and the overall tone was less warm than one hears from the finest players. Still, it was an elegant, cultured evening from both artists.
Battey is a freelance writer.