A flutist so good she could solo full time

Angel Hsiao , presented in recital by Astral Artists, has the musical goods as well as the ability to speak to audiences through her instrument. ARTHUR MOELLER
Angel Hsiao , presented in recital by Astral Artists, has the musical goods as well as the ability to speak to audiences through her instrument. ARTHUR MOELLER
Posted: December 04, 2012

Whenever an excellent new flutist arrives in the classical concert world, you wish him or her a cushy position in a major symphony orchestra with time for a part-time solo career.

Even the best unaffiliated flutists have it tough: Witness the ceaseless enterprise of Mimi Stillman and her Dolce Suono Ensemble.

Yet when the Taiwanese-born, Belgian-trained Angel Hsiao was presented by Astral Artists in a solo recital Sunday at the Trinity Center, a full-time solo career seemed warranted. As a calling card, the program of Bach, Luciano Berio, and Charles-Marie Widor showed she has all of the necessary musical goods, plus qualities not normally expected from flutists. Her highest treble notes maintain an even, refined timbre and her lower range is so substantial as to suggest an alto flute. She has power in reserve.

Most important, she seems to speak directly to the audience through her instrument. Thanks partly to accompanist Alexandre Moutouzkine (her artistic equal), nearly every melody seemed to have secret lyrics, with each phrase having something specific to say. Her flourishes had theatrical underpinning. Her trills were beautifully integrated into her overall tone and the larger scheme of what she was communicating.

Such qualities were most apparent in Widor's Suite for Flute and Piano (Op. 34) (an excellent piece not widely known beyond flute circles), but were also apparent in more tightly harnessed form in Bach's Sonata for Flute and Harpsichord in G minor, whose appeal can so often seem mainly architectural.

Berio's Sequenza for unaccompanied flute came off like a cadenza-turned-atonal-operatic mad scene, whose final note was somehow colored to suggest a musically sane resolution.

The recital ended with a contemporary work by Yuko Uebayashi titled Au dela du temps for two flutes and piano that successfully weds Japanese sensibility with the French flute tradition. In lesser moments, the piece resembled several breezy early-20th-century French composers, and took on more substance when echoing Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Cello.

Elsewhere (such as the opening of the first movement), a highly original compositional voice emerged: The two flutes (the second played by Ya-Ting Yu) had the gentle manner of Japanese folk music, the meditative qualities of composer Toru Takemitsu, but moved in a canonic, medieval-tinged counterpoint.

It was a sound world unlike any I've heard. Such moments were like dreams that are too good to last.


Contact David Patrick Stearns at dstearns@phillynews.com.

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