- Program Notes
- The Sonata para Flauta y Piano by Malena Kuss/ed. by Don Bailey was first recorded by flutist Don Bailey and pianist Yujung Um in May 2023 at the KMFA Classical Music Station Event Space in Austin, TX. The performers offer the following tips for preparing the work. Performance Tips: Don Bailey (flute) The Sonata para Flauta y Piano by Malena Kuss is the result of the composer’s six years of private study with Alberto Ginastera in Buenos Aires. Although it was composed in 1960, I had the honor of premiering the work in a recital at Virginia Tech University in 2018 with pianist Dianne Frazer. In 2023, I recorded the sonata with pianist Yujung Um. Constructed as two atonal fast movements that rely on symmetrical pitch construction framing a lyrical, functionally tonal “Cantilena,” it is a challenging work for both performers, but perhaps more so for the pianist, as the composer was a concert pianist at that time. The sonata consists of three movements—Allegro ma non troppo presto, Andante con malinconia, and Allegro vigoroso. The first movement begins and ends with a “jaunty” feel—not too slow, not too fast. The first thematic group is melodic, the second rhythmic. Sections alternate moods between aggressive and percussive and lyrical. This movement is challenging due to its frequent irregular meter changes. Metrorhythmic tension of this sort is a characteristic feature of Stravinsky’s Sacre du printemps (1913). The composer skillfully manipulates rhythm by subtly shifting from duple to triple pulses, as seen in measure 31, where the piano arpeggios transition from duple notation to triplets. The flute follows the triple pulse but with a feel of one beat per measure. In subsequent sections, the music bounces between various time signatures, such as 2/16, 3/16, 4/16 and 3/8 and 2/4. Counting constant sixteeth notes can make it difficult to stay in sync with the piano. To maintain momentum and synchronicity, mentally regrouping measures into five pulses instead of 2 + 3 or vice versa can be helpful. Additionally, recording and looping the piano part while playing along can help achieve rhythmic precision. The score indicates instances where flutter tonguing (flatterzunge) is preferred. However, with the composer’s permission, I chose to replace some of the longer fluttered notes with trills, as indicated in the score. In the multi-rhythmic sections with low-register sixteenths, I opted for a strong sforzando articulation to achieve a percussive effect. The tonal second movement, “Cantilena,” should be played in a singing style, as suggested by the title. It evokes a contemplative mood, alternating between wonderment and longing. A free and flexible fluidity is implied. The written perdendosi at the end indicates a fading away, leading the movement to a restful close. In performance, an attacca entrance to the last movement (Allegro vigoroso) can effectively jolt the listener back to the present. While speed is encouraged, there are some notey sections, like the one starting in measure 48, that will dictate just how fast you can go. This movement is fun to play and serves as a tour de force for both players, especially the pianist, who faces a literal marathon. Fast-moving patterns of sixteenth notes require precision, as both instruments play in unison and engage in interlaced conversations. A light, bouncy articulation is suggested. The piano plays a crucial role in this movement, providing the underlying harmonic drive that propels the music forward. As in the first movement, the occasional flutter tongue can be replaced with trills where indicated. A dynamic build-up leading to the end brings the Sonata to an explosive, triumphant finish. I hope this Sonata finds its place in the flute repertoire, perhaps alongside works by Poulenc, Prokofiev, Ibert, and others. Performance Tips: Yujung Um (piano) This sonata is a significant challenge for both the flutist and the pianist. The outer fast movements engage in a captivating duel, as if competing to demonstrate virtuosity, while still requiring absolute ensemble coordination. You will notice a contrasting texture and articulation between the piano and flute from the beginning of the first movement. Due to the flute's angular melodic contours and its higher range, achieving good balance is not too challenging except for one section: measure 31-41. The piano can easily overpower the flute in this section, so careful balance adjustment is necessary. Also, aligning the left hand of the piano with the flute's melody helps to synchronize successfully. The most challenging part for ensemble coordination is likely the polymetric section, where the piano needs to provide precise accents and maintain a very accurate rhythm. The most technically challenging section occurs in the 3/16 meter. The tempo of the entire movement can be determined by this section. In such fast passages, especially when the piano emphasizes the downbeats or utilizes clear articulation, it is crucial to create a successful ensemble, as, for instance, in measures 45, 95, 127, 128, 148, and 176. If the tempo becomes extremely fast in the middle section, returning to the initial tempo from measures 189 onward can help achieve overall balance. The second movement is a truly beautiful interlude, providing a moment to catch one's breath before the exhilarating marathon-like pace of the third movement. The piano part, with its simple chords, creates a calm atmosphere reminiscent of a peaceful lake. As suggested by the title, the second movement begins with a vocal melody on the flute, and, accompanied by the piano, flows like a conversation in the middle section. The third movement is filled with relentless sixteenth notes that keep rushing forward without respite, and, initially, might be intimidating. However, this movement reveals the composer's prowess as a pianist. Once you move past the initial stage of studying the score, you will realize that it can be played more easily than the first movement. In the fast passages of sixteenth notes, it is essential to focus on producing flute-like sounds and articulation. Starting from measure 42, pay attention to the contrasting texture and articulation, which differs from the opening section.
- Recording Notes
- Comment: The composer gifted me this heretofore unpublished/unperformed sonata and gave me full publishing and recording rights. I edited the work for publication and made a professional recording.
- Ensemble Name
- Don Bailey, flute/Yujung Um, piano