Duo Aulos et al., Gisèle Grima, Ramona Zammit Formosa, piano
St James Cavalier

Recently, thanks to the Napier Student Initiative Grant, the Duo Aulos (Maltese flautists Laura Cioffi and Clara Galea) together with a number of fellow flautists, students at Edinburgh’s Napier University, were in Malta on a holiday-cum-recital visit. These young performers (Napier Flute Ensemble) are among the future bright lights of performing flautists.

Despite their young age, the Duo Aulos, who are Ian Tomlin scholars, are also marking 10 years of a steadily maturing partnership. The first recital was theirs, with pianist Gisèle Grima, a former Ian Tomlin scholar, at the piano. Cioffi and Galea are absolutely compatible and complementary and they have matured greatly. Even their mien on stage and rapport with the audience is relaxed, outgoing and warm. This could easily describe their interpretation of the mostly bucolic and very smooth Divertissement Grec by Philippe Gaubert.

A longish introduction marked Jean Michel Damase’s Trio for two piccolos and piano, followed by a bubbly theme which often tended to turn downright mischievous in nature.

Léon-Louis Mayeur’s Le Nid evoked a handful of noisy chicks and birds chirping and singing merrily to a rhythm very akin to the liscio romagnolo. Even more directly avian was Antonio Giacometti’s African Birds (cries from a virtual forest). Here the chatter and song alternated easily in this assertive exercise in actively organised chaos. Increasingly percussive piano accompaniment and difficult exchanges between it and the flutes rendered it more interesting and worked very well.

Ian Clarke’s Maya started as a calm reverie which gradually gathered momentum with lovely piano arpeggi in undulant phrases. Highly romantic was the brothers Franz and Karl Doppler’s Rigoletto Fantasie, Op 38. It cast a further glimpse at the duo’s versatility in dealing with this piece, based on familiar themes and some variations. Often of a virtuoso nature the dominant theme in this work is that of the soprano’s Caro nome.

It may have been gimmicky but if proof was needed, it was in the highly complementary roles shared by Duo Aulos, when as an encore they performed the Waltz from John Rutter’s Suite Antique. Cioffi breathed the notes while Galea pressed the keys. It was an excellent example of highly sensitive coordination and it stole the show.

There was a second recital I could not attend, at Palazzo de La Salle where some of the works performed were given their Maltese premiere and included works by Reuben Pace, Stuart Murray Mitchell and Ken Dempster.

Cioffi breathed the notes while Galea pressed the keys

However, I went to the third recital at St James during which the accompanying pianist was Ramona Zammit Formosa. All six flautists took part in a recital which at times highlighted the potential of the piccolo, alto and bass flutes.

Holly Thomson and Kinga Zaborowska opened with the Flower Duet from Delibes’s Lakmé, followed by Cioffi in Gary Schocker’s Small Sonata for Large Flute, in other words, bass flute. It was the first time that Cioffi was playing this instrument, something she did very smoothly. After this brief, rather jazzy piece, Rebekah Donn performed the equally brief but evocative For the Garden Bull Finch, from R.R. Bennett’s Six Tunes for the Instruction of Singing Birds.

Michael Ready next performed Freely, the second and last of the Sonnets for Alto Flute by Mike Mower. Zaborowska returned with the very beautiful Barcarolle by Ernest Gaubert and Galea’s Deep Blue by Clarke was no less accomplished.

It was left to Cioffi to end this recital with a strongdose of perky virtuosity in Wetzger’s Götterfunken, Op. 34.

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