March 4, 2016

Dreams and Mirages: what happens when you put a harpsichord, piano and flute together?


Though most musicians have a preference for the genre of music they dabble in, flautist Roberto Alvarez feels equally at home playing anything from Baroque to Jazz, whether solo, in orchestras, or in chamber music groups of any size.

Known for his ‘consummate artistry’ and ‘hot blooded Spanish flair’ in his playing, the solo piccolo player of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra is a strong advocate of playing music of our time, by living composers. Composer/conductor Eric Watson interviews him ahead of the Spanish/Singaporean-centered programme he presents at Spectrum.

1) When you were choosing the works for this programme what were the considerations you had in mind?

Tien Yang and I were talking for years about the possibility of performing a full recital of contemporary pieces for flute and harpsichord. It all began like that. Then I thought it would be interesting to feature the piano as well, and I was willing to perform Zechariah Goh and Luis Serrano’s works. José Nieto is a very well known movie composer in Spain, and he had written Angelasia a couple of years ago for me. All these pieces seemed to work well together, but we still needed one piece featuring flute, harpsichord and piano. I hadn’t heard about such a combination before, so I commissioned a new piece to my former student Daniel Lim, who is studying composing at the Royal Northern College of Music, the same school where I studied. You can imagine how proud I am of making the World Premiere of Daniel’s Fata Morgana and also José Nieto’s Angelasia.

2) Do you feel that there is any particular synergy between Spanish music and Singaporean music?

It is very important for me to perform music of our time from both my homeland and the place I call home for 9 years now. I would say that there is not an obvious link in between the music from bounty countries, but somehow I feel both repertories work very well together. A unique example of this is the cd La Noche a recording of new pieces for flute and harp written by Singaporean and Spanish composers. Harpist Katryna Tan and I have toured Australia performing these pieces and the combination works perfectly.

3) What qualities do you particularly look for in contemporary flute music?

Absolutely the same qualities I look for in other repertories. It has to be a piece that somehow connects with me. A piece that is good to express feelings, a story, a concept, etc. Something that I have been noticing constantly for many years when I perform today’s music is that members of the audience are surprised of how appealing new music can be. There is a preconceived idea of contemporary music as something that they won’t understand, but I think that music can give you something that transcends understanding and it can connect to you in a very special way.

4) How does your performance differ when the accompaniment is harpsichord rather than piano?

Both instruments are quite different. It is a matter of sound combination. As in the orchestra, you use not only your best tone, but one that melts with other instruments. Depending on if you play solo, or with a clarinet, oboe, violin section, etc, your tone and articulation will be modified to adapt to the combination. In any case, these pieces are fantastically written and there is no problem of balance, which was one of my concerns at the early steps of the recital preparation.

5) What do you consider to be masterpieces of 20th and 21st century flute music?

I would never dare to tell about the 21st century because we just have begun listening to that repertory. There are many new composers that we will be discovering during the next years. As for the 20th century I will say Stravinsky’s The Rite of the Spring.


Dreams and Mirages will be the first time in Singapore (and possibly anywhere else) a piano, harpsichord and flute will join forces.  Happening on 8th March 2016 – next tuesday, 7.30pm at Esplanade Recital Studio. Don’t miss it! Get your tickets here now!

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