Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Headline: Bar Lines Remove Critical Laughter

Last night I heard two outstanding flutists displaying considerable virtuosity in a duo recital, eventually bringing down the house and me with it, with a two-flute rendition of the Carmen Fantasy by Bizet, if you can believe it.  (I love Bizet, a much under-rated composer, and I love Carmen, but I never expected to hear that piece played like that!

But the house should have started falling (from being brought down) with their first two numbers.  If it didn't it was because they made sure that I knew where every bar line should fall.  The composers in question, Thomas Morley and W.F. Bach, were not Classical period masters.  On the contrary.  Each flourished in an era when variation was constant and rhythmic vitality uncontrollably out of kilter with predictable symmetry.

Surely the players didn't need to reinforce their ensemble musicianship in this pedestrian way.  Wouldn't they have more fun if they allowed asymmetry to peek in, as, for example, at every sequence of three notes of the same value even though the meter is 2/4?  And if they had more fun, wouldn't everyone else have had more fun as well?

Why not bring down the house with the first number?  And the second?