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Wednesday, 20 November 2013 00:33

Concert review: Karen Hauge and Dan Velicer dazzle at the Artist Presentation Society Sunday, November 10

Concert review: Karen Hauge and Dan Velicer dazzle at the Artist Presentation Society Sunday, November 10
Written by Gary Liam Scott
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Now in its 67th year of showcasing brilliant young performers from our region, the Artist Presentation Society continues to dazzle local audiences with the diversity and depth of talent nurtured here in the Midwest.  The current season opened on Sunday, November 10, featuring Kansas City-based flutist (flautist? ) Karen Hauge, accompanied by pianist Daniel Velicer.

A native of New Jersey, Hauge is currently training for her Artist’s Certificate at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, a school whose reputation has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years, largely due to the impressive successes of its students. Hauge chose to display her prodigious acrobatic technique via a program of sonatas, ranging from Bach to a lesser known but challenging work by Czech composer Jindrich Feld, dating from 1957.

But Hauge’s technique consists of far more than acrobatics and musical fireworks. She brings a keen sense of phrasing and articulation to bear in her performance, along with careful intonation and collaboration with her accompanist. This was markedly noticeable in the monumental "Sonata in A Major" by Cesar Franck, long a standard in the violin repertoire, but often played in transcriptions by violists, cellists and flutists.

In her remarks to the audience, Hauge noted her belief that a successful recital is a collaboration between two equals, not just a soloist and assistant. The format of a sonata program clearly demonstrates the importance of the role of the piano in establishing the musical language of each work. Fortunately, pianist Dan Velicer is a pianist capable of such a task. Having worked with artists such as Joshua Bell and Yo Yo Ma, as well as having accrued extensive experience in opera coaching and teaching, Velicer has established an impressive track record of successful team work. Velicer’s technique is clean and crisp, supportive to the other player yet never lingering in the shadows. It is significant that an artist of his caliber recognizes the importance of ensemble performance as well as solo work.

The program opened with the "Sonata in B Minor" by J. S. Bach, BWV 1030, composed circa 1736. Although Bach could scarcely have envisioned this work performed on contemporary instruments, he surely would have been proud of the flowing smoothness afforded by modern innovations in instrument design and tuning. We know that Bach embraced the new with optimism and a renewed sense of creativity. One almost gets the sense that Bach longed for and perhaps envisioned the music and instruments that would follows after him.

Following the rhythmic, rapid-fire "Sonata" by Jindrich Feld, dating from 1957, the second half of the program opened with the "Sonata" by Francis Poulenc, also dating from 1957. By now an established staple of the flute repertoire, Poulenc’s work is at once lyrical and snappy, sparkling and reflective. Poulenc loved melody, and an instrument such as the flute is perhaps the very embodiment of melody and lyricism.

The program concluded with the Franck Sonata, dating from 1886, one of the masterpieces of the genre. Although this work requires an intensity that is perhaps best achieved on a stringed instrument with piano, hearing it performed with flute and piano cast the work in a new light, enabling the listener to hear the melodies enunciated in perhaps a freer and more effervescent way. The magnificent canon (like a round) that concludes the work provides an excellent example of the partnership between piano and instrument that is required for a successful rendering of Franck’s vision.

Hauge and Velicer achieved an excellent balance between the two instruments. Although many of the sonatas on the program utilized a heavy bass in the piano, the flute was never overwhelmed and every phrase was clearly audible, along with its harmonic underpinnings. The excellent acoustics of the Ethical Society auditorium surely enhanced this quality, but credit must also go to the outstanding partnership of Hauge and Velicer.

The Artist Presentation Society contributes mightily not only to our present cultural milieu in St. Louis, but to our musical future as well. By recognizing that artists must be nurtured, the Society has set an example that we all should support and follow. Our community as a whole should rally behind such a wonderful philanthropic organization as this, as well as the budding artists it has now sponsored for generations.

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