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Anna Noakes & Gabriella Dall'Olio

Music for flute & harp by Doppler, Zamara,Rota, Liebermann, Caramiello, Donatoni and others.

Blackheath Halls, London 10 June 2007

This concert's single programme sheet (which had neither information about the artists nor the usual CVs!) went through several permutations, and was as played far different from the one provided at the venue this morning!

The Donatoni was not played (it will be though, at Trinity College of Music, on 26 June*) and there were other changes announced from the platform, the slow movement of Mozart's concerto arranged for duo without orchestra a welcome addition; a concert etude Op 193 by Félix Godefroid (1818-1897); and a jazzy harp showpiece Around the Clock by the American Pearl Chertok (1918-81, harpist at the Met) displayed the versatility of the harp and Gabriella Dall'Olio's mastery of it.

The administrative confusion was no great matter for the small and enthusiastic audience, including a sprinkling of flutists, but did pose difficulties for your reviewer, resolved at a session with Google!

Anna Noakes explained that the repertoire for flute and harp is mainly light (composers with harpist wives figured!) but a notable exception was Lowell Liebermann's dark Sonata Op 56, which has been recorded sixteen times!! In one movement, it drew on timbres and techniques we had not heard otherwise.

All in all, this was an astonishingly generous two hours of great music making, in which only the Mozart will have been generally familiar. Both musicians teach at Trinity College; my tentative suggestion that Noakes is as good as Galway was dismissed firmly by her pupils - much better, they insisted, and who am I to argue with experts...

I have admired Noakes' playing on CD, also with Fibonacci Sequence and in a memorable Damase concert she organised at Trinity College - "Anna Noakes showed everyone else how to float and sustain a long melodic line with ardour and golden tone."

That says it all; despite a hot, humid Recital Room (Anna had to insist on the windows being re-opened despite traffic noise) she played with unblemished security and intensity of expressive phrasing. Works by Spohr and Alvars did go on a bit, but who could complain with such a demonstration of bel canto wind playing, especially after suffering a surfeit of "con belto" singing at Opera Holland Park the previous evening - (q.v. Bel Canto !!! Not Can Belto !!!)

A marvellous finish to the Halls 2007 Blackheath Sundays (which Musical Pointers and its predecessors Guide Magazine & Seen&Heard have been covering ever since their inception) after which the next season's programme was launched. Importantly awaited is more detailed information about the artists; prices are not cheap!

Peter Grahame Woolf

Gabriella Dall'Olio & Anna Noakes
Harp Days at Trinity College of Music 26-28 June

Peacock Room, Trinity College of Music, 26 June 2007

This festival opened with a recital by Dall'Olio & Noakes in which the Donatoni Marches*, postponed from the Blackheath recital, was enjoyed by an audience of (mainly, I guess) young harpists.

Donatoni's is a challenging work, 'sophisticated and idiomatic, avoiding the usual gimmicky harp effects'. Gabriella Dall'Olio described its arcane technicalities; worth hearing again, and included on her CD.

Once again, one marvelled in Rota's sonata, not a piece that would normally interest me, how Anna Noakes with her golden flute can nonchantly convey the whole of music in a single phrase...

Noakes & Dall'Olio at Sutton House Music Society, Hackney 18 November 2007

Another opportunity to sample this duo's repertoire was welcome, but the players and we of the small audience had to suffer many vicissitudes in the rigours of a cold rainy November afternoon. For both musicians and audiences administrative arrangements at venues are important considerations for ensuring successful events.

At its best, Sutton House is a delightful place to hear music. The hall looked gloomy and felt chilly on this grey afternoon and we were all recommended to keep our coats on - "the heating will be mended tomorrow" !

Not encouraging for musicians and their instruments; apparently the SHMS Committee did not have a convector heater for emergencies... Worse, the dim lighting left Gabriella Dall'Olio with considerable difficulty following her scores... During the lengthy interval (extended because of inexperenced staff serving tea incredibly slowly) a standard lamp was discovered in Sutton House to cheer the playing area...

The first half of a well devised and balanced programme (substantially changed from that in the e/invitation) ranged from an operatic-like Donizetti sonata to one of Spohr's, to represent the heyday of the 19th century harp literature. In the second half a complete change for the dark, tense sonata of Lowell Liebermann, a distinguished and much recorded prolific New York contemporary composer. For easier pleasure the Round the Clock Suite by Pearl Chertok (1918-81, enjoyed at Blackheath) showed the harp in lighter mood, depicting little scenes of USA urban life. Nino Rota's audience-friendly sonata (heard in both the recitals reviewed above) drew on the romantic style of his film music and the duo ended with South American folk tune arrangements to send us home happy and satisfied. PGW