Sally Walker – An Interview

Elena Kats-Chernin’s new flute concerto Night and Now is the result of a long friendship and collaboration with flautist Sally Walker. Sally will be premiering the concerto on Saturday 24 October with the Darwin Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Matthew Wood.

Angus McPherson spoke to Sally Walker. (Excerpts from Elena Kats-Chernin’s program note for Night and Now are in italics.)


When did you know Elena was writing you a concerto?

The idea of writing me a concerto stemmed naturally from our many other collaborations; it had been talked about for some years but crystallised once Elena was awarded the Australia Council Fellowship in late 2014, which also meant a confirmation of a timeline of events. She then began writing furiously and by January played me her idea for the first movement (on piano, from which she composes).

Photo: Steven Goodbee Publicity.

Sally & elena

How did the collaboration between you and Elena work?

Our collaboration process is very easy. It always begins with a lot of talking and a lot of laughing in a session at her place around the piano – trying things out. As we are both very itinerant, we are emailing mostly thereafter, with occasional phone calls. If we are in the same city at the same time, of course we try to meet, but the contact is very constant in the written form. Sometimes I will send her a sound file (like yesterday, so she could hear the recording of the first tutti rehearsal).

Sally often hears sketches of my work as I’m writing them and she has great insight into my processes. When Sally and I began to think about what a major work for flute and orchestra would sound like, we discussed all of these qualities and how to showcase the flute as a solo instrument and emphasise its unique sound and capabilities. Sally’s sound is full bodied. It isn’t a little flute which flies away – it has earth. That is Sally…how she is, very earthy and elf‐like at the same time. That’s what flute is, the way Sally plays it.

We began with talking about what the piece should be. I said that I would like a work of depth and seriousness, which has beautiful melodies and embodies her knowledge of unusual harmonies. I especially wanted some darkness (so many flute concertos have the ‘brilliante’ aspect of the flute, but I think our low register is very stirring). In 2006, Elena wrote her flute and piano version of Blue Silence for me and it became my favourite of all her works. She needed some persuading that the slowness of the music was convincing; she is more comfortable writing very busy music. When it was broadcast by the ABC on a show called For Matthew and Others, she received enormous praise for this contemplative work. I had wanted that work to be a starting point for the concerto. Consequently, the concerto starts on a low E, in a minor key and very slowly. “Night”.

The timbre and sonorities of the flute itself offer much variation to the composer. It can be brilliant, shrill and scurrying, or whispering and mellow. The flute can draw sharp or soft lines. It can be rich, or mystical, or virtuosic, penetrate a full sound or sigh into the texture.

I wanted her somehow to document her childhood in Russia, with all its extremes, its suffering and its wonder.

It is a Concerto in three movements and takes aspects of the Russian personality and character as its starting point, as well as aspects of the flute itself. It draws very much on my own experiences as a child of that world, both aurally and from day to day life. Until I was 17, that was everything that I knew. One of my overriding memories of childhood in Russia is of lining up for hours and hours for one loaf of bread or piece of cheese, and the perseverance and sometimes ultimate disappointment that had to be faced when food just ran out.


Being familiar with Elena and her music, did you have any preconceptions about the piece? Were there any surprises?

I was delighted to hear a reference to J.S. Bach in the fugue-ish second movement. I half-jokingly suggested a ‘Latigo’ (an Argentine Tango technique) in the second movement and then I saw she put it in the score! – both for violin (which is typical) and then for piccolo (not typical, but effective).


What has been the most challenging thing about preparing Night and Now?

That I premiere this in three days and we are still making changes. I love to play from memory, but I think that may be a little too risky!


How would you describe the overall sound of the work?

Colourful, from the foreboding to the sublime. It is a transformation, really, from the darkest of darks to exuberant triumph (with abundant percussion). A Lament, a Fugue and a Tarantella.

Sally also suggested to me that I might use stories from my early years in Russia, or from my own life as a template to the overall design of the composition. And so I did. The first movement is based on two imagined Russian fairy tales; one taking place deep in the woods – always a place of foreboding and unease (for this writer), but also promise and adventure and transformation. The other is in a silvery castle, impressively elaborate and bejewelled. Two very different “nights”.


What is your favourite moment in the music?

The first, certainly. For its intensity and colour. Low register flute, low strings and Tubular bells is an eerie, other-worldly sound.


Are there different challenges when preparing and performing a work written for you by a friend?

Somehow it feels like a higher responsibility, even though I have been integrally involved in the whole writing process. You want everybody to be happy with the final result. Luckily I love the piece – imagine where would it leave a friendship if someone writes you a concerto and you don’t like it!


How do you see this work fitting into the wider canon of flute concertos?

It is perhaps more focussed upon melody than virtuosity (although there are a couple of awkward acrobatic moments). We had specifically wanted a piece that many people could enjoy playing, so its level of technical difficulty is not as high as other concertos. Also, we discussed the idea of making the concerto for multiple flutes, but I thought that would limit how many people would play it and so it is for C flute only.

Although it is an ‘Australian Flute Concerto’, it is very much bound with Elena’s cultural background as a Russian Jew, so there are elements of Russian music certainly, hints of Klezmer and, of course, Bach.


Are there any plans for further tours?

It will be performed with the Zelman Symphony, conducted by Mark Shiell, in Melbourne on December fifth, with the Newcastle Youth Orchestra in September next year and the Queensland Youth Symphony the year after. Some overseas orchestras have approached us too; it would be really special to take this work to different countries.


UPDATE Monday 2 November 2015

ALL of the team at FTA extend our most heartfelt congratulations to both Elena and Sally and of course the Darwin Symphony Orchestra on an incredibly successful world premier of “Night and Now” which received a standing ovation!

Please find below some stunning photos of the World Premier courtesy of the Darwin Symphony Orchestra

image4 image3 image2 image1

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The Art of Elegant Conversation – Elysium Ensemble

Review by Angus McPherson

Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773)

Sei Duetti, op. 2 (1959)


  The Art of Elegant Conversation, a recording of Johann Joachim Quantz’s Sei Duetti by Greg Dikmans and Lucinda Moon of the Elysium Ensemble, is the first of a series of recordings intended to promote newly discovered and hitherto neglected chamber music from the Baroque and early-Classical periods. Despite the fame Quantz enjoys in the flute community, particularly for his treatise Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (1752) and some of his better-known sonatas and concertos, much of his vast compositional output remains unpublished and unrecorded. Performed on period instruments and informed by a close study of the Versuch, this CD is a thoughtful and sensitive exploration of Quantz’s rarely performed Sei Duetti.   From 1741 until his death in 1773, Quantz served in the court of King Frederick II of Prussia, a flute player and an avid music lover. Quantz was Frederick’s flute teacher and was responsible for the King’s private chamber music concerts; he was also the only member of the court permitted to critique the King’s flute playing. Written as didactic works (in his preface to the score, Quantz extolls the virtues of playing duets as an important part of a musician’s training) it is not impossible that the Sei Duetti were first played by Quantz and King.   Although Quantz composed these duets for two flutes, in his preface he outlines a number of different possible instrumental combinations, writing: “In general, duets as well as trios produce a better and more intelligible effect on two instruments of different type than upon instruments of the same kind.” The combination of flute and violin used in this recording is particularly effective. The two distinct timbres provide clarity between the voices, allowing the listener to follow Quantz’s two-part writing and enhancing the impression of a sophisticated dialogue. Dikmans and Moon form a crisp, well-balanced ensemble, their parts weaving independently at times before joining together in perfectly synchronised flourishes. The result is beautiful, engaging and far more interesting than one would expect from over an hour of flute duets.   This CD will be fascinating for those interested in the music of Quantz and the style that straddles the end of the Baroque and beginning of the Classical period. Well-researched and insightful, this performance is also an excellent example of the practical applications of the study of Quantz’s Versuch. A PDF scan of the first edition of the score, from 1759, is available from the International Music Score Library Project for those who want to delve more deeply into this music.   The Art of Elegant Conversation is a charming, multifaceted recording that will delight both casual listeners and aficionados of historically informed performance. Dikmans and Moon have taken Quantz’s duets, deceptively light on the surface, and turned them into a conversation that is stimulating as well as elegant.   The Art of Elegant Conversation is available from Resonus Classics and iTunes.

All articles and reviews published on this website are representative of the opinions of the author/s alone and do not reflect the opinions of FTA or it’s affiliates

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Gergely Ittzés’ “Flouble”

Flouble (rhymes with ‘double’), is a fantastic new tool for composers and performers working with multiphonics for the flute. Created by the virtuoso Hungarian flutist-composer Gergely Ittzés, Flouble is based on Ittzés’ Chart of Double-Stops, a ‘periodic table’ of two-note multiphonics. The software offers a much wider range of features than the original chart however and Ittzés has made effective use of the electronic format to create an innovative and useful resource.

The Flouble interface is easy to navigate and the most immediately apparent advantage of the electronic format is that the user is spared the tedious cross-referencing and page turning that is unavoidable in printed multiphonic catalogues. From a chromatic scale at the bottom of the screen (see the screen shot below), the user merely selects a lower note with the left mouse button and an upper note with the right, and this brings up a cell that shows the fingering for that multiphonic (in ‘acoustic’ fingering), and other information such as the difficulty level and intonation. In the full version of Floublethe user also has access to a graphic fingering diagram, displayed in the top right corner of the interface, that can be saved as an image file and added to a score. In addition to this, for each of the approximately five hundred double-stops listed, Ittzés has provided audio examples demonstrating how they will sound at different dynamics and at different lengths.

 Floublehas a slightly narrower scope than that of other multiphonic catalogues, such as those found in Thomas Howell’s The Avant-Garde Flutist or Robert Dick’s The Other Flute, in that it only includes two-note multiphonics. Ittzés explains the reasons behind this decision in Flouble’s user guide:

“I tried to find the format which is the easiest to use, which includes the most useful and the least superfluous information, and which is logical and easy to survey…  Since the spectrum of possible chords is infinitely rich, I had to narrow down the choices; thus this chart includes double sounds which can be played on the flute and result from pairing tones of the twelve-tone system at a range of two and a half octaves. So I avoided micro-intervals and multiphonics with more than two notes.”

Ittzés has also restricted the fingerings listed to those that he considers the most ideal for each pair of pitches. While this could be perceived as a limitation in the software, it does make Flouble a more personal multiphonic catalogue as each fingering has been selected by Ittzés based on his own experimentation and experiences as a flutist. Combined with the audio examples, this will help eliminate a lot of guess work for composers, especially those who don’t have access to a tame flutist. Ittzés explains the criteria he used to select between fingerings, in the cases where there were several options, in the user guide.

Another useful feature made possible by the electronic format is the filtering option. This allows users to sort the double-stops by difficulty, dynamic level, intonation, and more. For instance, the filters can be set so that only the easy double-stops playable on a closed-hole flute will be displayed. There are no filtering options for specific intervals though, so these have to be located manually. Fortunately, the logical organisation of the chart makes this fairly straightforward.

Flouble’s user guide is also an amazing resource. Far from being a simple instruction manual, the user guide is more like a treatise on multiphonic flute playing, offering a detailed explanation of what multiphonics are and how they are produced. Ittzés includes technical and practical advice for flutists and composers using the software.

Flouble 1.0 or Flouble Basic?

The most profound difference between the free version, Flouble Basic,and Flouble 1.0 is that Flouble Basic doesn’t include the full set of graphic fingering diagrams or audio files. Fingerings are available for every double-stop but they are written using a less well known ‘acoustic’ fingering notation system developed by István Matuz. While this notation is trickier to read at first, a detailed explanation is included with Flouble Basic and with a bit of work it doesn’t take too long to pick up. Ittzés uses this notation in his own compositions and while one of its benefits is that it takes up a lot less space in a score, it can look a little threatening to flutists who are unfamiliar with it. A comprehensive chart comparing the features of Flouble Basic and Flouble 1.0 can be found on the Flouble website.

The full version also comes with some great bonus material consisting of video interviews/discussions between Ittzés and Jean-Paul Wright, the scores to five different flute compositions by Hungarian composers and a video of Ittzés performing his own composition Mr Dick is Thinking in Terms of a Blues Pattern. The interviews include a fascinating demonstration lesson on reading acoustic notation and producing multiphonics, as well as a video on ‘special sounds’ in which Ittzés discusses some of the extended techniques that aren’t included in the Flouble software. One of the sounds featured is the so called ‘trumpet’ or ‘horn’ embouchure, a technique that is often neglected in other extended technique manuals.

Overall, Flouble works well as a quick and easy reference for finding multiphonics, with the added advantage of allowing the user to hear what the multiphonic will sound like and, if they wish, save the fingering. These features, combined with the user guide and extensive bonus material, make Flouble a great tool and a valuable addition to the literature on extended techniques and contemporary flute playing.

For more information, or to download Flouble, visit

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Where Everything is Music – Reza Vali

Where Everything is Music – Reza Vali

Tuesday 19 June 2012, 7pm

The Goethe-Institut Sydney

Review by Angus McPherson

(Originally published by The NSW Flute Society Blog in June 2012 and published on Flute Tutor Australia at the request of the NSW Flute Society in February 2014)


Tuesday night’s lecture and concert with Reza Vali provided a fascinating insight into the composer’s work and music. The evening began with a lecture by Vali discussing his musical development and the different periods in his compositional career. Although Vali’s musical training was in Western art music, he has always been passionate about Persian folk music and more recently has become interested in Iranian traditional music. Vali finished the lecture with a recording of a string quartet from his Calligraphy collection, composed in his ‘Post-Western,’ period, in which he used the Iranian modal system rather than the Western system.

In his lecture, Vali described how he began collecting Persian folk songs as a student at the Conservatory of Music in Tehran. In his career as a composer, Vali wrote so many sets of folk songs that he soon ran out of titles for his compositions and was forced to catalogue works by number and letter. Hence the title of the first piece on the program, Persian Suite: Folk Songs Set No. 12 E (2002), performed by Marie Irene Heinrich on flute and David Miller on piano. Originally scored for voice, string quartet and piano, the piece began with an Armenian folk song and ended with a fast, strident dance from Northern Iran.

Song for solo flute (1987), performed by Laura Chislett Jones, used the technique of singing and playing to imitate the sound of the traditional Persian flute, the Ney. According to Vali, the overtones produced by singing and playing create a timbre that is very close to that of the Ney. This technique also allowed Vali to write two different melodic lines, creating a duet between the flute and the voice. Driven by a building tension between two musical styles, Persian folk song and European avant-garde music, this piece reached a dramatic climax during which the voice part was almost a scream.

The evening concluded with the Sydney World Premiere of Vali’s homage to Johannes Brahms, Three Romantic Songs (2011). This piece was written for and dedicated to Vali’s wife, and was performed by Thomas Jones on violin with David Miller once more on piano. The final movement, in 7/8, was described by Vali as a “limping tango” and the composer invited the audience to imagine a corpulent Brahms attempting to dance with Clara Schumann.

All articles and reviews published on this website are representative of the opinions of the author/s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FTA or it’s affiliates
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Matthew Hindson – House Music (Flute Concerto)

A Review by Angus McPherson

SCM Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Imre Palló
Soloist: Alexa Still

Friday 4 May 2012, 6pm
Saturday 5 May 2012, 4pm
Verbrugghen Hall

(Originally published by The NSW Flute Society Blog in May 2012 and published on Flute Tutor Australia at the request of the NSW Flute Society in February 2014)


On Friday night, Alexa Still performed the Australian premiere of Matthew Hindson’s flute concerto, House Music, with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Symphony Orchestra conducted by Imre Palló.

The first movement of the concerto, entitled “Kitchen, Garage, Workshop,” opened dramatically with a strident cacophony of sound from the orchestra before giving way to a virtuosic flute cadenza of extended techniques and high-speed technical passages. The dynamic range of this movement stretched from a ghostly whistle-tone in the cadenza to full orchestral fortissimos and the influence of electronic dance music was clearly apparent in the driving beat of the orchestra. Named for rooms that imply the frequent use of appliances, gadgets and machinery this movement was exciting and dizzyingly frenetic.

“Foyer, Swimming Pool (Interlude),” provided some welcome relief from the frenzied activity of the opening movement. Showcasing the flute and harp, this movement was languid and, at times, almost eerily still. The flute part was full of idyllic melodies adorned with the shimmering and burbling of timbrel trills and smooth, glassy glissandi that Alexa played with a seemingly effortless, fluid grace.

The final movement, “Nursery, Games Room,” saw a return to the upbeat energy and dance influences of the first movement, but this time the music locked into a more playful, repetitive groove. While still fast-paced and virtuosic, the children’s domain seemed to brim with a positive energy, free from the stresses of adult life.

Alexa performed with her usual flair, masterfully executing both the extended techniques and the technical gymnastics that make this piece a formidable and exciting contribution to the flute repertoire. She will be performing House Music again at the Annual Convention of the National Flute Association (USA) in Las Vegas later this year.

All articles and reviews published on this website are representative of the opinions of the author/s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FTA or it’s affiliates
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