Visiting Austrian flautist Karin Leitner teamed up with local harpist Jacinta Dennett for the Melba Hall free lunch hour concert this week. Leitner chose an all-20th century program that showcased the variety of music for the flute in an era that many audience still seem to shy away from.

Opening with Jacques Ibert’s Entr’ace and Morocco: A Nocturne for Flute by Caesar Giovanni, the duo set a relaxed and meditative atmosphere. Though unusual in their harmonic language, both works tend to steer clear of virtuoso extended techniques, a theme that Leitner seemed keen to carry through her recital. Her still-unusual choice of a wooden flute with modern keywork gave her a great variety of tone colour, especially in the softer dynamics, which blended excellently with the harp.

The Suite for Flute Solo by Egon Wellesz, however, could have packed a bigger punch. All three movements made extensive use of the mellow wooden tone (which Leitner does do wonderfully), but somewhat at the expense of a stronger sound which could have been employed to great effect in the allegretto particularly. Such a tone was, however, put to perfect use in Australian Colin Brumby’s Four Exotic Pieces. Both performers showed a keen understanding of the piece’s musical landscape, although Dennett’s harp lines did occasionally feel a little more forward in the texture than they needed to.

Finally, Leitner teamed up with guitarist Dan McKay for a rendition of Astor Piazzolla’s ever-popular Histoire du Tango. Here, Leitner seemed to spring into a totally different gear, showing that the wooden flute is indeed capable of the loud, the powerful and the downright sexy. Totally at home in Piazzolla’s music, the duo’s sparkle and drive was utterly engaging.

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