Flutes figured prominently and in a variety of guises in the program that the National Symphony Orchestra Wind Ensemble brought to the National Museum of Women in the Arts on Wednesday.
The evening's delightful surprise was a stunning performance by flutist and piccolo player Carole Bean and pianist Lisa Emenheiser of "Souvenirs" for piccolo and piano by Robert Beaser, who chairs the composition department at Juilliard. It features five movements of folk-inspired fun, with roots in Spain, early America and elsewhere, all exploiting a seldom heard but astonishing repertoire of piccolo expressiveness.
Lili Boulanger's "D'un Matin de Printemps" for flute and piano, which mused on vintage impressionistic coloring, was played with agreeable attention to French inflection by Emenheiser and flutist Alice Kogan Weinreb. A serenade for four flutes by Ingolf Dahl brought to the stage the NSO's whole flute section: Weinreb and colleagues Toshiko Kohno, Elizabeth Rowe (soon to assume the first chair in the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and Bean. With very little in the way of timbre or range to distinguish one line from another, Dahl does a fine job of constructing interesting textures in the five movements of this piece. Solo opportunities travel around the ensemble; there are moments of humor, and Dahl refrains admirably from flute gimmicks.
Katherine Meany offered a nice reading of Vaughan Williams's "Four Studies in English Folk Songs" and a rare opportunity to savor fully the distinctiveness of the English horn. Rowe, oboist Carol Stephenson, bass player Robert Oppelt, bassoonist Sue Heinemann and harpsichordist William Neil collaborated in a jaunty performance of the opening Telemann D Minor Wind Quartet (Neil and Oppelt serving jointly as the continuo) and the evening ended with a very immature trio for flute (Kohno), bassoon and piano, by a very young Beethoven.
-- Joan Reinthaler