Commissioned by the National Institute of Music and Dance, the Flute Concerto of "an American in Warsaw," i.e., the distinguished trumpet player and composer Gary Guthman, who has lived here for many years, was performed on Friday for the first time in the Lutosławski Concert Studio of the Polish Radio. The solo part was performed by our undisputed number one flutist, Łukasz Długosz, and together with him, Guthman's composition was played by young musicians of Jerzy Semkow's Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra conducted by Piotr Sułkowski.
So we have a new concert item in the not-so-rich flute literature. It is an interesting piece because it is different from all the others, mainly due to its jazz origins. But, as it were, sometimes close to the music of *"Le Six" - by the way, in those days, jazz also crept into classical music (more neoclassical then) and a bit of Gershwin and a bit of Piazzolla. But nothing more than an aura - no plagiarism or borrowing.
The orchestra mostly sounded big-band, not surprisingly; after all, Gary not only grew up on it but is probably still in it somehow. There was a lot of interesting, colorful painting, and impressive-sounding brass, almost always against the background of soft and alluring strings. Very picturesque from the beginning was the flute part, whose aura, in turn, was more akin to musical impressionism. I do not know how the sounds of the solo instrument are written down, but almost all the time, I had the impression that it was an excellent, imaginative, confident, and conscious improvisation with the highest virtuosic qualities. An impressive cadenza, as if summing up somewhere in itself the golden age of jazz in the 1960s. The extended percussion layer in the finale "played nicely" and the big-band display of the orchestra. The ballad-like second movement was very alluringly woven by the composer. The timbres were nice, soft, and warm (even the harp came to the rescue). The plot developed naturally, smoothly, calmly, and freely, which is always important for Guthman and his music. The third movement was brisk, coherent with the whole, with considerable sound qualities. There was only one inconsistency when the composer started preparing for the finale, and - in my opinion - the change of "decoration" was too sudden and pompous, but I understand - something had to be invented. The final cadence was also full of fantasy. I noticed a nice clasp of the solo instrument, a quality close to that of the first movement. The orchestra was always lively and active, in Guthman's case contributing rather than accompanying.
To sum up, we have a new flute concerto that requires excellent preparation and performance. I highly appreciated yesterday's premiere performance in Warsaw premiere performance. I highly appreciated the playing of the young (perhaps because of that) musicians of the SI Orchestra, the excellent work of the conductor, and - undoubtedly - the masterly art, imagination, creative freedom, and here the required jazz ease of the soloist, Łukasz Długosz, the indisputable hero of Friday evening. It seems to me that Łukasz may have a monopoly on this concert. Or maybe not.
Adam Rozlach / music journalist - critic
(*"Les Six" (pronounced [le sis]) is a name given to a group of six composers, five of them French and one Swiss, who lived and worked in Montparnasse. The name, inspired by Mily Balakirev's The Five, originates in two 1920 articles by critic Henri Collet in Comœdia. Their music is often seen as a neoclassic reaction against both the musical style of Richard Wagner and the impressionist music of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. The members were Georges Auric (1899–1983), Louis Durey (1888–1979), Arthur Honegger (1892–1955), Darius Milhaud (1892–1974), Francis Poulenc (1899–1963), and Germaine Tailleferre (1892–1983). )
What does the flute sing about in Gary Guthman's new concert?
Fryderyk Chopin used to say to his students: 'Music is to speak, the pianist is to sing'. In the premiere composition on April 29 in the Concert Studio of the Polish Radio, we heard an extensive part of the flute singing in a virtuoso interpretation by Łukasz Długosz.
Gary Guthman, a trumpeter and jazz musician from the United States, is also a composer. He wrote many works, both strict jazz and symphonic, he also writes texts, musicals, and orchestral suites. "Concerto for flute and orchestra" (2021) is Guthman's third concerto for solo instrument and orchestra, after "Concerto Romantico for harp and orchestra" (2018, for Małgorzata Zalewska) and "Concerto for trumpet and orchestra" (2020, written with oneself in mind). Łukasz Długosz, for whom the concert was created, is a soloist and chamber musician, one of the most outstanding flutists in Poland today. Piotr Sułkowski is a symphonic and opera conductor, currently the General and Artistic Director of the Warmian-Masurian Philharmonic in Olsztyn. And it was these three mature artists: Guthman, Długosz, and Sułkowski who were the heroes of the evening "Guthman, Skoryk, Grieg". She played Sinfonia Iuventus, a band composed of young instrumentalists.
In the first part, the world premiere of "Concerto for flute and orchestra" was presented. According to the tradition of the genre, the piece is three-part, and the individual parts are entitled "Maxim", "Essence" and "Passage". The composition turned out to be an original syncretic piece, referring to various styles and musical eras. What particularly surprised me was that there are relatively few references to the world of jazz. Guthman created a symphonic concerto, which especially in the very lyrical second movement reminded me of the presence of French impressionists, with Debussy at the forefront. The final third movement consistently led to a monumental climax, reminding me of the music of the German Romantics. But in each fragment, despite the clearly outlined melodic lines, there were also elements of modernity of sound or distant echoes of bursting entertainment orchestras. Folk interjections of folklore music were also audible to me. The composer, drawing on different styles, was able to saturate the concert with his individual reading. The work is more in the spirit of postmodernism than the avant-garde of the revolution.
The flute parts written by Guthman are often subtle, combined with the large and aggressive orchestration in some places. The composer also allowed the flutist to perform long terms of – quasi improvisations. Listening to instrumental concerts, I sometimes have the impression of a certain conversation, in this case, a dialogue between the flute and the orchestra. The instrument performed by Łukasz Długosz tells and sings, sometimes arguing and crying. He is heroic and sometimes withdrawn. Chopin, who was a great lover of opera, used to tell his students that 'your fingers must sing'. And this remark can be applied to any solo instrument. Even if we do not know the exact subject of this dialogue.
Piotr Sulkowski conducted the orchestra very carefully. He brought out steely, rusty predation where necessary, and lyricism in impressionist fragments. In the second part of the evening, the "Melody in A minor" by Myroslav Skoryk was presented, as well as two orchestral suites "Peer Gynt" by Edvard Grieg. Both pieces under the baton of Sułkowski were a coherent complement to musical stories.
Tomek Pasternak / music journalist - critic
Original review in Polish language on ORFEO.COM portal