Paula Robison displays ageless artistry with Ken Noda at FIU

By Lawrence Budmen

Flutist Paula Robison performed with pianist Ken Noda Wednesday night at FIU for Friends of Chamber Music.

Like fine vintage wines, some artists become ever more impressive with time. Flutist Paula Robison certainly falls into that category and she was in prime form Wednesday evening in a wonderful recital for the Friends of Chamber Music at Florida International University’s Wertheim Auditorium.

Robison won first prize at the Geneva Competition in 1966. In the intervening years, she was a founding member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, co-director of chamber music at the Spoleto Festival and has taught at Juilliard and the New England Conservatory. Robison has authored several textbooks on flute performance and, indeed, her playing is a textbook of supple technique and mature artistry.

Schumann’s Three Romances displayed Robison’s purity of tone and sensitive musicality. The flowing melodic path of “Einfach, innig” was fluid and she brought an aura of mystery to “Nicht schnell.”  Ken Noda was her superb pianistic partner, bringing romantic ardor to Schumann’s keyboard writing.

Robison’s transcription of five pieces by Grieg was a total delight. Her brisk, airy version of Wedding Day at Trolhaugen turned languid in the songful central episode. The silvery sound and rich colors of “Solveig’s  Song” from Peer Gynt and her breath control in Tak fordit rad (Thanks for the advice) conveyed Robison’s undiminished instrumental command.

Before assaying Henri Dutilleux’s Sonatine, Robison said, “All you flute players out there, say a prayer.” Indeed the score is an awesome test of instrumental flexibility and dexterity but it held no terrors for Robison. She played the Ravel-tinged opening section with élan, then dashed through the high-flying finale, her triple tonguing and rapid articulation marvelous. Noda was equally brilliant in the spiky keyboard role.

Robison’s transcriptions of three melodies by Gabriel Faure captured the Gallic vocal lyricism of these intimate pieces. She projected the sensuous beauty of Apres un Reve (Awakening from a Dream) and, in a whirlwind of rapid notes, the incandescent melody of Notre Amour sang with the beauty of a lyric soprano.

Bohuslav Martinu’s Sonata No.1 combines musical threads of the composer’s Czech heritage with a lithe Neo-classicism. Robison related that the score was inspired by an injured whippoorwill that Martinu rescued and nursed back to health during a summer in New England. Bird sounds whirl through the flute writing while the tolling of bells resounds in the piano’s role. The spare Adagio is a prayer, raptly uttered by the flute while the bird’s return to freedom is celebrated in the sizzle of the final Allegro. Robison and Noda excelled in the bravura strophes of this irresistible showpiece.

As an encore, Ravel’s Piece in the Style of a Habanera offered a touch of the exotic, Robison projecting a mini-canvas of Andalusian colors.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Paula Robison displays ageless artistry with Ken Noda at FIU”

  1. Posted Apr 06, 2012 at 6:50 pm by Iris van Eck

    So Agree! It was a wonderful concert… It deserved this great review 🙂

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Thu Apr 5, 2012
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