“Timeless” = BARRY McKIMM: Air; DANIEL DORFF: Flash!; FREDERICK LESEMANN: Slow Music for Piccolo Alone; MICHAEL DAUGHERTY: The High and the Mighty; DANIEL KELLEY: Passage; MARTIN KENNEDY: Desplazamiento; KENNETH BENSHOOF: Timeless; STEVE KUJALA: Eurythmionics – Kate Prestia-Schaub, piccolo/Martin Kennedy, piano – K8trills Records, 54:33 [Distr. by Phoenix] (7/30/2013) ***1/2:
I admit the concept of a piccolo recital has never occurred to me. I have never heard a flutist do an all-piccolo program; this instrument being notoriously difficult to control. I think if all piccolo players were as skilled as Ms. Prestia-Schaub, there would be more programs like this and why not?
Kate Prestia-Schaub is an amazing performer who trained at Indiana University and the University of Southern California. She is gifted with a beautiful tone and can actually make the “little flute” sound rich and full-bodied in the mid-register. Her technique is very impressive and she has, accordingly, won numerous competitions for her expertise for the past twenty years. To her credit, she has made finding and developing new repertoire for the piccolo her mission. On this album alone the works by Dorff, Lesemann and Kennedy were all written specifically for her.
Some amazing playing notwithstanding, the music in this collection is reason enough to take interest. Some of the pieces herein are genuinely – perhaps, surprisingly – lyrical and beautiful to take in. In this regard, the set opens with the simply gorgeous, somewhat Celtic inspired Air by Australian Barry McKimm. Michael Daugherty’s The High and the Mighty is not what we have come to expect from Daugherty in this piece that also requires alternate techniques including flutter tonguing. Daniel Kelly’s Passage is another straight up melodic beauty from this young New York composer.
One particular surprise is the Slow Music for Piccolo Alone by Frederick Lesemann, a long time composer in residence at USC. One would not think that solo piccolo would come across as soulful and lyrical but, indeed, this piece – and Prestia-Schaub’s playing – give it a haunting almost Pan-flute-like feel.
The works by Daniel Dorff and Steve Kujala provide a very different feel. Dorff’s Flash! is indeed, “flashy” taking full advantage of that stereotypical bubbly upper register of the piccolo and plenty of trills to be had in a somewhat jazzy context. Dorff is a Pennsylvania based saxophonist by trade and on the executive staff of Theodore Presser, Inc. Steve Kujala’s Eurythmionics is the longest and, in many ways, the most complex work on this program with a jaunty, jazz feel throughout that I found most enjoyable. Steve has an extensive lineage and training as a classical jazz flutist himself; his father being Walfrid Kujala, the long time flute-piccolo player with the Chicago Symphony.
The remaining two works on this program stand out as being wholly unlike the others in the set. Martin Kennedy’s Desplazamiento (Spanish: ‘movement’ or, literally, “displacement”) is a very frenetic little work that does contain some Latin rhythms and brief references to classical and pop works. This work was originally written for piccolo and orchestra. Mr. Kennedy was trained at Indiana University and is also a highly skilled pianist who does a wonderful job throughout this program with Ms. Prestia-Schaub. Timeless by Kenneth Benshoof is a rhapsodic work that has a very exotic and more jazz-inspired sound to it than some of the other works here. This is a very attractive work. Benshoof is from the northwest, having trained at Pacific Lutheran and also served a Fulbright Scholarship in London.
This really is a very nice program that you cannot help but be uplifted by. Kate and Martin’s playing is just exquisite and all the selections are very atmospheric and buoyant. As I said, I would not have envisioned an all-piccolo program but this album makes you want to hear another; preferably by these same gifted performers!