Fresh to the scene is Zephyrus, a newly-formed woodwind trio. Their inaugural recital, ‘An Evening of French Music for Flute, Clarinet and Piano’, will showcase their members, Jasper Goh (flute), Benjamin Wong (clarinet), and Pauline Lee (piano). The pieces they have chosen, from the likes of Poulenc to Jolivet and Schmitt, foreground the unique traits of each instrument, as well as the trio as a whole. Accompanying them is Singaporean painter-illustrator Alvin Mark, who will create a studio piece inspired from the music.
The Band Post speaks to flautist Jasper Goh sheds light on the creation and motivations of Zephyrus.
The story of Zephyrus began when Benjamin and Jasper used to perform frequently in their woodwind quintet EDQ, and even participated in a competition in France. Enjoying their great friendship and partnership, the duo decided to do something together. Pauline is also a very dear friend to theirs and they have enjoyed working together during previous flute and piano recitals. Hence, they decided to form Zephyrus. The name Zephyrus came about as they are a mixture of wind instruments (despite the piano!), and although this is their premier recital as a group, they have exciting plans to do more cross-disciplinary projects in future with other artforms, and with other diverse combinations of instruments.
On the complementary nature of the 3 instruments, Jasper shares that the timbre of the flute and clarinet is quite closely linked, but it is surprising that there is not a vast canon of works written for this combination. He found that with the flute, there are many possibilities in creating a tone colour that blends very well with the clarinet, and sometimes by deliberately playing without vibrato, it produces a very nice blend of colours that sounds almost like two clarinets.
Starting the evening off with Poulenc’s Melancolie for Piano Solo, a popular work among pianists. The nostalgic and intense melodies characterise the battle-ridden nature of France in the 1940s.
Next, Canzonetta for Clarinet and Piano by Pierné features a lighter, more popular flavour reminiscent of dance music. This piece is a charming waltz showcasing many characteristics of the French style: lyrical melodies, flourishing ornaments and cheeky changes in harmonies.
Saint-Saën’s world-renowned Romance for Flute and Piano is a short and enchantingly atmospheric piece with a lyrical melody. Today it finds itself a staple in many flautists’ repertoire.
Moving into the trio pieces, Emmanuel’s Sonata for Flute, Clarinet and Piano, composed of three movements. The joyous Allegro Spirito complements the pensive second movement. Finishing with a scherzo, the finale Molto allegro e leggierissimo keeps the audience on their toes and with a dainty dance.
Ending with Sonatine for Flute, Clarinet and Piano by Schmitt is a delightful piece leading the audience through a myriad of moods in four starkly different movements. The playfulness of the piece represents Schmitt at his most delicate and charming.
When asked on the niche selection and influence of these pieces on their inaugural recital, Jasper spoke about the different layers of his answer. All pieces fit into a quintessentially French kind of sound. There is a special sense of fluidity in texture, colour, and harmony—a daringness on the composer’s part to expand the tonal capabilities of music, almost cheeky and playful. However, an important thread through our planning of the programme was also to showcase the unique characteristics of each instrument, and then the trio as a whole. Thus the start with solo piano, then solos by the clarinet and flute, a flute-clarinet duo, and finally ending with two trios. The ensemble texture not only gets richer as we progress, but also more heterogeneous in terms of tonal capabilities. Zephyrus wishes to introduce the quirks of each instrument to the audience, before demonstrating how all three instruments work in tandem.
Having studied in France, Jasper always had a strong liking for French music because of how ethereal it is. There is a lot of fluidity and translucence, with tone colours that give a very transparent kind of sound. His favourite French composers are Debussy and Ravel. In spite of this, however, Zephyrus chose not to program any works by them because we wanted to explore other musical gems that are rarely played, or even heard. All in all, it is not just French music that is important to them, but French art (in the widest sense of the term), which is why they chose to work with a painter on this project.
With this project, Zephyrus hopes to deviate from the tradition of a standalone recital. They are working very closely with our painter, Alvin Mark Tan, to weave the many moving parts of music, visual art, and plot into a cohesive whole. This recital recreates a story of an artist based in 1960s France who, facing an urgent deadline, turns to the radio for inspiration. One could say that the painter is actually the main character in this show, and Zephyrus, as musicians, are just supporting him!
Zephyrus is eager to present more performance opportunities that traverse artistic platforms, and to collaborate with creatives from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. They also have plans to expand beyond the current trio of instruments in order to broaden the palette of sounds and kinds of repertoire we may offer to our audience. They hope that their inaugural recital would further motivate our local music scene towards a boldness to break the boundaries of conventional performance practice.
Ready yourselves for a night by the Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon as Zephyrus serenades us with their charming selection of French chamber music at the Esplanade Recital Studio, 7 January, 8pm. Tickets are on sale at $20 (concessions) and $25 at zephyrus7.peatix.com.
This recital is supported by the National Arts Council and the Toteboard Arts Fund.
Music has always been a large part of Kyla’s life. After loudly proclaiming that she will never join a performing arts CCA again, she promptly joined Crescent Girls’ School Symphonic Band and picked up the clarinet. She began her venture into the world of the Symphonic Band and continued at Eunoia Junior College under the baton of Mr Adrian Chiang. A sophomore at Nanyang Technological University, she is currently majoring in Linguistics and Multilingual Studies and is grateful for Band Fusion for giving her this opportunity to stay in touch with this lovely community. She is still struggling to park her car.