"Duo for Flute and Irish Harp"

by Missa Aoki and Yohko Odagaki

reviewed by Harper Tasche

Independently released. Available from

fax Ms. Aoki 0473-33-2980 or Ms. Odagaki 0474-78-4006 (no address listed)

These twenty-one (mostly short) pieces leave me with the feeling that I have either heard a demo tape for an accomplished classical duo, or attended a very unusual mid-day recital given for an unknown target audience. Nearly all performances, from both Ms. Aoki on flute and Ms.Odagaki on harp, are splendid. Both performers bring an obvious classical approach to a huge variety of material, and leave an equally heavy classical stamp on Celtic and Japanese folk tunes, film music, adaptations from opera, miscellaneous period pieces, and new Japanese music written for this recording. The sound is excellent and very well suited to their playing style; I'm reminded of the auditory experience of having the best seat in a good theatre.

Technically there are virtuostic sections for both halves of the duo (Ms. Aoki contributes four of the arrangements, and writes well forboth instruments), including flashy lever changes and lots of quick and precise flurries of notes for both, though the extremes of range for bothinstruments are sometimes not as beautifully executed as they could be. The three suites included here (#7-#9 are from an Italian film score by E.Morricone; #11-#14 are from Puccini's "La Bohème"; #15-#21 are "Seven Distant Memories" by Jiro Censhu) are effective, though more could be made of the stylistic differences between them. (Liner notes are included inJapanese and English.)

My favorite pieces here are their unusually rhythmic arrangement of"Scarborough Fair" (with alto flute), their joyous rendering of"Tambourin", "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso" with its irregular, long phrases and interesting harmonies, "A Red Flower at Night" for its haunting echoes between flute and harp and its modern sonorities (I'm reminded of Persichetti at times) and "Over the Hill" as a variation on jig rhythms in a showy, tonal, and thoroughly postmodern setting.

This is one of the best classically-oriented flute and harp albums I've heard in a while, though I feel vaguely disappointed by it as a single unit. Individually the tracks themselves are often delightful; I was much happier with a few minutes between pieces, as in a live performance, and found that straight-through listening was too much for me. I'm not sure why. I could have easily been fooled into thinking I was hearing a pedal harp; it may be too "serious" for many readers here, as it is for me personally, though had I heard it fifteen years ago as a classical flutistI would have been more impressed than I am now.

Copyright © 1998 Harper Tasche

Titles: 1) Down by the Sally Gardens 2) Scarborough Fair 3) The Quiet Land of Erin 4) All Through the Night 5) Tambourin 6) Mizuhanabi 7) Nuovo Cinema Paradiso 8) Prima Gioventu 9) Tema D'Amore 10) Pan et Les Oiseaux 11) Eternal love, "Mimi" 12) Quartien Latin, Youth and Encounter 13) Separation for Love 14) Sad Fate 15) North Cloud 16) Wind on the Lake 17) A Red Flower at Night 18) At the Treetops 19) Over the Hill 20) For the Man Who Departed for a Journey 21) And the Sun Rises Again.

Total program length 56:59.

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