Stephanie Jutt and Trace Johnson did a duo concert on 7/19/20 as part of the Sunday Serenades series. Jutt is a flutist and Johnson is a cellist. As a side note, they're also mother and son.
They opened with movement from "Pres-ent," a duo by Efrain Amaya, It was the perfect piece to open the program, warm and inviting, a good chance for the musicians and the audience to warm up to each other. It sounded like music from a French movie from the 60s, and you know how I love those movies (and that kind of music). Amaya wrote some glamorous moments for each of the players, which Jutt and Johnson played with aplomb.
Jutt played "Fantasia #12" for solo flute by Telemann. She described the piece as a "mini masterpiece." She did an expert job at delineating the harmonic changes. The second movement was my favorite, she played it with such imagination that I could hear the orchestra playing under her.
Johnson played "All the Pretty Little Horses," a piece for solo cello by Laura Schwendinger. It's a free-form arrangement of the American folk song with inventive writing for the cello, using a number of extended techniques. Trace played it so it all held together and made sense.
The centerpiece of the program was a duo by Heitor Villa Lobos, "The Jet-Whistle." Jutt described it as "melodic, improvised-sounding, expressive." It had lovely interplay between the two instruments. They played it with a great sense of rubato. Villa Lobos utilized the extreme ends of the range of each instrument in the first movement, and it was a treat to hear them playing with such a broad range of colors.
The second movement was tender and haunting with a delicious feeling of elasticity. The third movement had a swagger, a little cockiness, and some wildly virtuosic writing for the flute. Villa Lobos wrote some non-melodic blowing effects near the end of the movement to invoke the title's jet-whistle. Jutt went totally for broke.
Here's a performance of the piece from 2015:
The final piece was "The Emperor and the Birds of Paradise" for flute and reciter by Alan Ridout. I was sure that the Villa Lobos would be my favorite piece on the program (I'm a fan of his), but this piece ended up being my favorite, it was charming. It was a fairy tale, imaginatively set by Ridout with evocative writing for the flute which Jutt played with a delightful sense of drama. Johnson was the narrator, he read his part in a sweet, direct way, without a lot of fol-de-rol. It had a surprise ending. I like a surprise ending, if it's done well.