Featuring fine playing and an intriguing programme, Lisa Garner Santa’s recital was selected to explore ‘the internal aspects of shade and light’. In doing so, it coalesces into one soothing, pleasant wash of sound dominated by Jake Heggie’s exquisite Soliloquy, commissioned by Camerata Pacifica, one of Southern California’s leading chamber music series, as a memorial to a longtime supporter. Transformative at its root, Soliloquy is a setting of the song ‘Beyond’ from the composer’s Pieces of 9/11: Memories from Houston, and Santa’s playing of the heartbreaking melody connects with the music’s profound message of peace through consolation.
The disc opens with the tangible dreams and mortal fears of Joseph Schwantner’s Black Anemones, then proceeds to three helplessly happy, innocuous and rarely recorded sonatas by Giuseppe Rabboni, principal flute at La Scala during the second quarter of the 19th century (Sonata No. 13 is ‘based’ on a Donizetti oboe sonata). York Bowen’s Sonata, written in 1946 for the Philharmonia Orchestra’s principal Gareth Morris, remains a appealingly conservative as it was originally: fluent in its technique, attractive in the sounds it gives to the flute to make, English in its form, and Impressionist French and Russian at its heart. The sonatas by Martinu and Matthew Santa provide additional moments of beauty.
Recorded in Hemmle Recital Hall at Texas Tech University where Santa teaches – including, as a core curriculum course, ‘Yoga and the Creative Arts’ – the sound of both Santa’s flute and Nataliya Sukhina’s graceful piano-playing is, like the performances, lovely and mild.Laurence VittesGramophone, April 2016
The flutist Lisa Garner Santa has chosen an eclectic group of works to “explore internal aspects of shade and light through the aspect of sound”. In that sense, this recital is an exploration of our shadow side, whether that be a place of fear or safety.
First up is Joseph Schwantner’s Black Anemones of 1980, based on a poem by Agueda Pizzaro, and originally for soprano and piano. A child dreams of its mother and explores issues of abandonment; on another parallel level of exploration, Schwantner explores the various manifestations of the anemone through folklore and legend. It is a fascinating premise, and the musical realization is gorgeously achieved. This is a miraculously affectionate performance of a highly atmospheric piece, one that encompasses all the depth the foregoing explanation might imply.
The nineteenth-century composer Giuseppe Rabboni was principal flute of the Teatro alla Scala from 1826 through 1856. The influence of the Italian operatic masters Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi are all on show here (the Sonata No. 13 uses a theme from a sketch by Donizetti for an oboe sonata). Interestingly, the piano accompaniments here are composed by John Alley (a keyboardist with the London Symphony). The pieces really are charming, with that No. 13, actually the second one on offer here, proffering the highlight: the long “vocal” solo line against a simple accompaniment is wonderfully operatic, and Garner Santa offers terrific legato.
There are a number of extant versions of Bowen’s Flute Sonata, including one I reviewed in Fanfare 38:6 performed by Kenneth Smith and Paul Rhodes on Divine Art (this was a program of all-British music). While the ArchivMusic website lists five versions, there is at least one other, by members of the Endymion Ensemble on Dutton, that one a wonderfully fresh account. Garner Santa and Sukhina claim a more intimate space for the first movement than the Endymion, yet one that still flows beautifully. The current recording uses the most recent (2000) version of the score. It is a performance of the utmost honesty: that reposeful first movement is beautifully performed, while the central Andante piacevole is truly gorgeous sonically (not for nothing is Bowen sometimes called the “English Rakhmaninoff”); the finale is playful and sprightly, its nature excellently caught on the wing here.
The First Sonata of Martinů demonstrates that fluidity of invention so characteristic of this composer. There is an acidic tang to some of the harmonies, yet the piece is shot through with radiant daylight, particularly in the first movement. The far more interior central Adagio is a miracle of concise expression on the composer’s part; the finale is fairly complex, with some lovely crunchy harmonies for the piano.
Matthew Santa’s Flute Sonata begins dissonantly on piano, almost as if a tribute to Prokofieff in his more strident mode. The surface does soften, however, melting somewhat into some lovely descending bell-like figures heard in delicious imitation. The central Largo is hushed, and notably properly pianissimo on the piano: Sukhina really is a sensitive musician. Garner Santa’s melodic lines unfold effortlessly above this bed of sound; the finale, Presto, offers an attractive mix of the pretty and the sophisticated.
Finally, a piece by Jake Heggie. The opera Dead Man Walking is probably Heggie’s most famous piece. His Soliloquy for flute and piano is a meditation on grief and is actually a setting of Heggie’s song “Beyond” from Pieces of 9/11: Memories from Houston. It begins with a dissonant, restrained yet heart-felt cry before a shaft of hope finds its way into the frame. The tender melody that begins just before a minute in, against a high-register accompaniment, is very effective in its directness.
Currently Professor of Flute at Texas Tech University, Lisa Garner Santa is clearly a primary exponent of her instrument. Everything on the disc is delivered with fine expertise as well as a true feeling for the varied musics.
This is a most elevating recital. Its stated aim is ambitious, to confront our own shadows: the lingering silence after the Heggie after a full play-through convinces this writer, at least, that Garner Santa and Sukhina have been successful in their aim. A remarkable, thought-provoking release.Colin ClarkFanfare
Congratulations to Lisa Garner Santa for her new CD “Shades of Sound, Chamber Music for Flute and Piano” recorded with pianist Nataliya Sukhina. In selecting the works for this beautiful recording, Santa shares these thoughts: “I intended to explore the internal aspects of shade and light through the aspect of sound…” With this concept in mind she chose an eclectic array of compositions: Schwantner – Black Anemones, Rabboni – Sonata’s, Edwin York Bowen – Flute Sonata, Martinu – Sonata, Matthew Santa – Sonata, and Jake Heggie’s –Soliloquy.
Santa plays each work with a glorious sound, great pitch and rhythm, and with musical intensity, bringing to them a clarity of interpretation to match her conceptual approach. There are several works on the CD that I hadn’t heard before- the sonata’s by Giuseppe Rabboni (1800-1856) an Italian flutist who performed with La Scala for 30 years. Paul Edmund-Davies discovered the pieces in a second-hand store in Hungerford, England! (go figure…) They are lovely, romantic, operatic and a wonderful addition to romantic flute repertioire. Also new to me is the Sonata by Edwin York Bowen (1890-1961), a substantial sonata written in 1946 but not known until 1986, another great addition to our repertoire.Barbara SieselThe Flute View, October 2015
Lisa Garner Santa plays with a beautiful ease and freedom. Two of these pieces were originally written for voice: Heggie’s and Schwantner’s. Another is not far removed in style from opera: the “sonatas” by the Italian flutist-composer Rabboni, who lived from 1800 to 1856, are one movement each, and three have been selected to create a set: 14 followed by 13, then 16. And another piece, the sonata by Martinu, contains bird song, so aspects of song permeate this program.
The sonata by York Bowen (1946) is getting played more since a corrected edition came out in 2000. It is always welcome, and here is another fine rendition.
Nataliya Sukhina has much to relish in her supporting role. She adds moody sprinkles in the Schwantner and heft in other places; her contribution is balanced perfectly.Todd GormanAmerican Recod Guide, May/June 2016
Rêver en Couleurs (Dreaming in Color) – Lisa Garner Santa, flute – Gabriel Sanchez, piano: Compact Disc released on MSR Classics. This compilation of standard UIL contest pieces from the French flute repertoire appeals to flutists as well as the general public and serves as a valuable recruiting and visibility tool. The project was funded through the Texas Tech University School of Music and the TTU Internal Grants for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity in the Arts and Humanities. “American flutist Lisa Garner Santa, capably assisted by pianist Gabriel Sanchez, makes a splendid impression with a French program aptly entitled Rêver en Couleurs (To Dream in Colors). This luminously beautiful recital captures the essential qualities of the 'French Flute School' whose roots go back to the tenure of Paul Taffanel as professor of flute at the Paris Conservatory from 1893 to 1908. What a glorious tradition that is, you may gather from the abundance of riches in this program, which includes late 19th and early 20th century pieces by Taffanel, Philippe Gaubert, Benjamin Godard, Georges Hüe, Johannes Donjon, Camille Saint-Saëns, Georges Bizet, and Gabriel Fauré. Lisa Garner Santa plays with a style that does full justice to the wonderful music heard on this disc. Her breath control is superb as she shapes the long melodic contours of the Moderato section of Gaubert's Fantaisie (1920), and she betrays not the least trace of breathiness in the graceful manner in which she trails off the gently melancholy ending phrase of Godard's Idylle (1890). She invests Hüe's Fantaisie (1893) with all the delicate color that the composer intended. This is indeed flute playing of a higher order.Audio Video Club of Atlanta
As its subtitle reveals, this 2007 disc called Rêver en Couleurs is a compilation of French music for flute and piano. More specifically, it is a compilation of late nineteenth and early twentieth century French music for flute and piano. The composers range from the exceedingly well-known Bizet, Fauré, and Saint-Saëns to the hardly known outside of French flute circles Gaubert, Godard, Hüe, Donjon, and Taffanel. While the music has a variety of moods, from the joyous to the melancholy and the sensuous to the sublime, it is all consistently light and uniformly lovely. And as played the American team of flutist Lisa Garner Santa and pianist Gabriel Sanchez, it is also all very, very beautiful. Garner Santa has a dulcet tone, agile technique, and a soulful disposition, qualities that serve this virtuosic but never overly demonstrative music, while Sanchez is a sensitive accompanist who seems wholly dedicated to supporting and not upstaging Garner Santa. For flute fans, this disc will be a must-have, especially in MSR Classics' lush sound. And for non-flute fans, it will still be a pleasant way to while away an hour or so.James LeonardAll Music Guide
Chamber Works for Flute,” June 6, 2000, Weill Recital Hall Joining the program was Sallie Pollack, piano; Alexander Ezerman, cello; David Dees, soprano saxophone; Will Strieder, trumpet; Karl Dent, tenor; and Mark Weiger, guest artist from The University of Iowa, oboe. The program included world premieres of Lament and Jubilation for Flute and Piano (commissioned for Lisa Garner and funded by the Brannen-Cooper Fund) by Southwestern composer Warner Hutchison and Kanza for Flute, Soprano Saxophone, and Cello, by Texas Tech Visiting Professor, Teresa LeVelle. The program also featured a premiere performance of New York composer Eric Ewazen’s Trio for Violin, Trumpet, and Piano, the violin part transcribed for flute by Lisa Garner. “Whether deserved or not, the State of Texas and its inhabitants have a reputation for doing things ‘big’ and although it may have merely been a coincidence, the June 6 recital of flutist and Texan Lisa Garner lived up to this reputation.” Of Warner Hutchison’s new work, “Lament and Jubilation …was one of the most interesting and successful segments of the recital. Garner slinked through the work’s sinewy and difficult melodic curves like drifting smoke,” and of the Corigliano, “The flute part lifted these pieces from being attractive but quaint tunes into something quite different....a commentary rather than merely an accompaniment. Garner played these with gusto, creating a memorable impression.Douglas GeersNew York Concert Review
It is all magnificent music, played with finesse. The flutist has the kind of tone I prefer – rich, colorful, perfectly in control, and always in tune. Her phrasing is well shaped and thoughtful, just what this elegant music deserves. Sanchez is an equal partner. It is refreshing to hear someone so firmly entrenched in our (academic) system who is truly a remarkable artist with such dazzling musical ability. Flutists and non-flutist alike should find this wonderful disc. I look forward to hearing more from this duo.ChaffeAmerican Record Guide
A virtuosic, fantasia-like evocation of the charm and elegance of French culture at its Zenith.World Magazine - Best-Selling CDs
From Noon to Starry Night: Lisa Garner Santa – flute, Lora Deahl – piano: Compact Disc released on 24Keys label featuring works from composers of the American Southwest including Matthew Santa, Robert Muczynski, Dan Welcher, Warner Hutchison, and Kent Kennan. Released September 2004. “The title track, originally for voice and piano, transcribed by the composer, is a wonderful addition to the flute repertoire and is a superb companion piece for the Muczynski, which follows it on the CD. Garner’s colors, vibrato use, and interpretations are excellent. The balance between flute and piano is excellent throughout, and the sound engineering never intrudes into the music. This interesting, well-produced CD, which includes informative liner notes, should be in every flutist’s record collection.Flute Talk