Paula Robison

Paula Robison talks to Michael Miller

On the day following her amazing recital with Katherine Chi at Jordan Hall, Paula Robison and I met at the house she shares with her husband, Scott Nickrenz, with its bird’s eye view of Frederick Law Olmsted’s house and garden. In the hour or so we talked we covered a lot of ground: the concert, her preparations for it, and some of the music she played…we talked about Sidney Lanier, the poet, linguist, and self-taught flute virtuoso, who died at 39 of tuberculosis contracted as a Confederate prisoner of war, and Charles T. Griffes, who died at 35 of the same disease, leaving behind a remarkable body of exploratory compositions, Paul Taffanel, the founder of modern flute playing and the teacher of Ms. Robison’s teacher, the great Marcel Moyse.

Paula Robison and Katherine Chi. Photo Matt Dine.

Paula Robison and Katherine Chi play Griffes, Lanier, Taffanel and Franck at NEC’s Jordan Hall

Although Katherine Chi played Charles T. Griffes’ Three Tone-Pictures, Op. 5, for solo piano, there could be no question that this program was primarily a feast of specialized flute repertoire. (Simply hearing the sounds of Paula Robison’s playing in Jordan Hall’s extraordinary acoustic is enough to make this an exciting event.) One piece, Sidney Lanier’s “Windsong,” is even known relatively little outside Paula Robison’s flute recitals. Paul Taffanel (1844-1908) is remembered primarily as a great flute virtuoso, who developed the modern technique of playing the Boehm flute and modifications thereof—the foundations of the instrument and technique that prevail today. While Taffanel sought above all to enrich the emotional content of flute music and to extend the expressive capabilities of the instrument, he composed much of his music for technical display at his own recitals and as exercises for his students. Nonetheless the appeal of the concert went far beyond the immediate concerns of flute-players and their pupils and offered a wealth of insights, which were both fascinating in relation to music as imagined and constructed by the composer and as re-created within the specificities of acoustics, instrument, and player, and deeply moving as expressions of the human spirit.

Marlboro at 60 – a Look Back, with a Schedule of Touring Concerts 2010-11

This past summer this hour’s drive took me to Marlboro on several occasions, thanks to the generosity of Frank Salomon — an administrator of many years service and great knowledge of everything Marlboro — for a series of public and private concerts: a proper immersion in the school and festival, as they are today, and all seemed right with the world — very much so. Present-day Marlboro, led by Artistic Directors, Richard Goode and Mitsuko Uchida, is in some ways quite different from the Marlboro of Rudolf Serkin, but the basic principles haven’t changed very little, and the music is fresher than ever.

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