"…an important addition to the library."
Serenades and Sonatas for Flute and Harp
Erica Goodman, harp; Suzanne Shulman, flute. Naxos 2018
While most harpists will agree that flutists are their number one pick for a sidekick, they will also agree that the repertoire is not overflowing with hits. That’s what makes this album from 2017, Serenades and Sonatas for Flute and Harp, such an important addition to the library.
The idea came about when Canadian musicians, flutist Suzanne Shulman and harpist Erica Goodman, were invited to present a concert of music for an English garden. Programming clustered around a fantasie-sonata called Naiades. With over 80 feature film scores to his credit, flutist/composer William Alwyn describes as inspiration his own studio which overlooks a river and its reedy shoreline, a place where one might “believe again in Pan and Syrinx, sense the presence of Undine and hear Naiades sporting in the shallows.” Ms. Goodman’s tone is suffused with sparkly character matching the supple velvet texture of Ms. Shulman’s flute, not once becoming shrill even when the intensity heightens in the upper register at forte. There is a fairytale in tones.
A glorious discovery is Paul Reade’s The Victorian Kitchen Garden. It’s like walking into a Merchant Ivory film, each miniature scene a gauzy, soft-focus perfection in the out-of-doors, the sun at a proper angle, the flowers in bloom, the ladies dressed just so. The duo does not play as if providing background music at a summer’s party. No, they take the stage, but with finesse and a genteel quality.
The duo is in good form for Nino Rota’s Sonata. Written when he was in his twenties and already an up-and-coming film composer, the work requires quick-change artists to convey the myriad emotions and moods of someone used to writing for the visual. They convey dignity and joy at the same time, clearly playing as not just collaborators but as long-time friends.
Although Ms. Shulman’s tone is lovely, her pitch rode nearly consistently sharp, which sometimes added unintended tension to the recording. She is at her absolute best in the opening track, an arrangement of Ralph Vaughn-Williams Greensleeves, a piece that requires her to play many roles from the orchestra, which she does with silky assurance. In her solo portion, Ms. Goodman imitates to beguiling effect the mesmerizing quality of flowing water in Alphonse Hasselmans’ La Source.
Little gems can be found throughout the CD. A sweet arrangement of a Serenade by Arthur Woodall played by Ms. Shulman with a frothy legato and expert technique in its mini-cadenzas throughout. Birdsong as interpreted by Couperin and Chausson tweet, cuckoo, cluck, warble, and whistle. And finally, dessert is served via John Marson’s Strawberries and Cream. A tasty mix of familiar and new, this is a disc you’ll use as a resource to create your own summer concert experience and will listen to over and over just for pleasure.