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Program Reviews by Valerie

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Peninsula Music Club

Flute Spirits & The Four Seasons


The hall at St Luke’s is almost full and people are still pouring in to hear an interesting and varied flute recital given by internationally renowned flautist Jane Rutter. The programme promises to be quite unusual as Jane will play on a selection of her twelve different classical and ethnic flutes. The music of Vivaldi, Debussy and Vaughan-Williams will be familiar, arranged for solo flute by Jane and others. Arrangements of several more recent composers’ works wait to be enjoyed towards the end of the recital.

On stage, palms and a draped table display the collection of flutes. The lights in the hall go out to be replaced by gentle on-stage lamps that create an intimate atmosphere as Jane, a tall dazzling figure with a halo of fair hair sweeps into view. She wears a gorgeous gown of black, aquamarine and turquoise scattered with scarlet splashes. Graceful panels flow from the loose sleeves and scattered sequins reflect the light as she describes the evening’s events with infectious enthusiasm.


The recital opens with Jane’s arrangement of Far Distant Place, a traditional Chinese piece which introduces an atmosphere of expectation followed by an excerpt from Anais Nin’s ‘House of Incest.’

The Jean-Jacques version for solo flute of ‘Spring’ from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons  is portrayed with sublime sensitivity. I am transported to the Italian countryside with all its evocative sounds, finally ending with the rustic peasant dance. One of the sonnets, possibly written by Vivaldi himself describes this first season.

''Joyful spring has arrived
the birds greet it with their cheerful song,
and the brooks in the gentle breeze,
flow with a sweet murmur

Rumi’s Listen to the Reed - a haunting, plaintive piece that tugs at the heart strings. The words of the 13th century Sufi mystic Jalal al-din Rumi delve almost deeper than does his music.

Debussy’s Syrinx - a flautists’ favourite is less than three minutes long and is so captivating that I would like it to go on and on. The audience applause echoes my enjoyment.

Several pieces are performed on a ‘curved head flute.’  Prior to the mid-20th century, the term ‘bass flute’ was sometimes used, especially in Great Britain, to refer to the alto flute. An example is the part for bass flute in G in Gustav Holst's The Planets.  Jane tells us the flute is the oldest instrument known, first played some 40,000 years ago.


He Ain’t Heavy He’s my Brother - a popular music ballad written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell. A solitary sound, meaningful. Jane speaks about being inspired by the beautiful soaring section of Vaughan-Williams’ work ‘The Lark Ascending’.

The recital is interspersed with narrative and to complete the first half of the programme Jane reads excerpts from various writers and shares with us interesting and often amusing stories. Her philosophy on life and its oddities reveal a sensitive spirit. Thoughtful. 


After the interval Jane, now in sequined black struts around the audience playing a haunting, pleading piece titled Yugaki, Pan & Brolgas with a background accompaniment of percussion, didgeridoo, watery and pan pipe sounds. Her sound technician provides some interesting recorded accompaniments to several of her solo flute arrangements.  

Sonata for Solo Flute - Theme et Variations by Devienne, the French composer. Mood follows mood, fast and tricky, pensive and slow, a furious pace up and down the scales finally leads into a delightful melody. Jane’s dexterous fingers reflect her passion for this music and her instrument.

Esu & Kokopelli Talk of Going Home - by Jane Rutter is an American spiritual played on a pocket and other flutes, including a soprano recorder. The recorded accompaniment adds perfectly to the ambiance.

Blue Skies - Irving Berlin’s well-known jazzy song. Jane blows into the flute to obtain a percussive stroking ‘shush’ sound and the New York streets come alive with her swinging swaying rendition. The audience erupts with delight.

Irish Tune from County Derry (Danny Boy) played on a small Irish whistle invariably brings tears to my eyes. So please “come ye back Jane Rutter” with your phenomenal gift and share it with us once more.

The Last Rose of Summer - a traditional arrangement played on the Irish whistle  as the last rose of summer drops its petals.  The melange of Jane’s delicate playing and the Irish are tops at tugging at the emotions. I notice once again, tissues and the occasional dabbing of elderly eyes.

Phil the Fluther’s Ball - the final offering in this fascinating and diverse recital. A traditional arrangement played on a Silver Flute brings a richer tone to this foot-tapping, fun piece. 


Jane Rutter is a free spirit and a force to be reckoned with. Not only for her astounding musical ability, but for the charm and ease with which as she regales us throughout the evening. She is an expert in the French Flute School and among her many achievements is the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters)  awarded  by the French Government for her significant contribution to Arts and Literature.


It has been a stimulating and enjoyable evening and I am looking forward to the next concert Inventing ‘Night Music’ with John Field on Sunday 3rd June at 2.30pm.  The venue for all the Peninsula Music Club concerts is the Hall at St Luke’s Grammar School on the Bayview Campus.

Valerie copyright Sydney April 2018

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