Very few Seattle performers have been so friendly to contemporary music for so long as flutist Paul Taub—as a teacher (at Cornish College of the Arts), and as a player and impresario (Taub was founder of the Seattle Chamber Players, whose repertory ranges from Mozart to Schoenberg to commissioned works). Taub arrived here in 1979, and next week he's bestowing upon himself and Seattle audiences a splendid anniversary gift: 10 brand-new flute solos, commissioned from composers he's been professionally involved with over the years.
Benaroya Hall, Sunday, May 2
The new works feature the entire family of flutes: the standard, or "C" flute; the piccolo; the alto; and the bass flute. Bun-Ching Lam's Bittersweet Music III exploits the full range of the bass flute, its cellolike low tones and intense upper range. Roger Nelson's slow and meditative Stalks in the Breeze, based on Oriental (five-note) scales, highlights the bass flute's resemblance to the traditional Japanese shakuhachi.
Roger Briggs' overtly virtuosic Trailblazers is an etude for the tongue, full of brilliant staccato notes in fast, repetitive rhythms. Works by trumpeter James Knapp and trombonist Julian Priester are jazz inspired: Knapp's Oo-ee exploits color changes through various mouth positions as expressed in vowel sounds; and Priester's Equanimity has the feel of a jazz ballad, calling for Taub to sing and play simultaneously.
Stuart Dempster's Alternate Realities is a wholly improvisational work; he provided only a flow chart with evocative words in each box, oval, and diamond. (Dempster is a composer, Taub reports, who takes pride in not owning any staff paper.) Taub is free to interpret as he will phrases like "creative silence," "blow (away) an inversion," and "vibration of the lover." Other works provide more concrete, programmatic clues to interpretation, if only in their titles: Vincent Plush's The Little People of Mount Rainier, Bern Herbolsheimer's Ashik Dances Before His Love, and Robin Holcomb's Shiloh, based on a Civil War ballad. David Mahler came up with a small-scale theater piece based on his and Taub's mutual enthusiasm for baseball: One Banned Man presents the story of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the "Black Sox" scandal of 1919. Mahler gave Taub plenty to do: a flute part in the ragtime syncopations of the period, a rhythmically notated spoken text, and instructions for choreographic moves and gestures.
Also on the program is a revival, a piece Taub commissioned in 1996 from Cornish colleague Janice Giteck. The scherzo from her three-movement Agrarian Chants is a tour de force requiring Taub to deftly handle all four flutes. After the Benaroya premieres, Taub plans to take the entire program to New York and Bellingham later next month, and to the National Flute Convention in Atlanta in August, where he'll disseminate these new works to an audience sure to greet them eagerly.