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Award-winner Morgan Saulnier to play Danish composer's flute concerto

by Anne Bergstrom

When Carl Nielsen was a young boy, he discovered that different lengths and thicknesses of firewood made different sounds when struck together. Out at the woodpile he began banging out tunes. From this humble beginning came Denmark's best-known composer.

Carl went on to study piano and brass instruments, playing cornet in a town band. At the Copenhagen Conservatory he studied music theory and violin. He found the composition training limiting and dull, so he composed on his own. Throughout his career, he was a composer, violinist, conductor, and conservatory teacher. He wrote many types of music: among his best are six symphonies, three concertos, and a wind quintet.

Nielsen's Flute Concerto, written in 1926, is a radiant, mercurial work. Nielsen knew he had a terminal illness, but the music is full of life. There are quick changes in tempo, dynamics, key, and mood. The interplay between solo flute and other instruments, especially clarinet, bassoon, trombone, and timpani, contributes to the excitement.

The work is in two movements. The first begins with a dissonant chord from the orchestra, which sends the flute into a free, twirling passage filled with trills and bumps. The solo flute carries on conversations with solo clarinet and bassoon, and the movement later features a second, more melodic theme. There are several virtuosic cadenzas for the soloist. The second movement again begins with aggressive sounds from the orchestra, but the solo flute calms them down. There are abrupt transitions of mood, with a slow lament by the flute, accompanied by muted strings. This is overtaken by a circus-like march with outbursts from sliding trombones and loud timpani with strings.

Flutist Morgan Saulnier, winner of the Suzanne Brenton Award, will be the soloist in the Nielsen Concerto with the PEI Symphony on November 26 at 2:30 pm. The concert will open with Rossini's overture to L'Italiana in Algieri, and will also include Glick's Suite Hébraique and Mozart's Symphony No. 41, Jupiter.

Saulnier, a native of Stellarton, NS, is a 2006 graduate of UPEI, where she received her BMus with 1st class standing. Morgan has received many awards at music festivals in both NS and PEI, and has advanced to the National Music Festival three times, this year placing third in the woodwind category. She is a three-time recipient of the Royal Conservatory Silver Medal for highest mark in Atlantic Canada—twice for flute and once for piano.

Morgan is currently pursuing her Master's degree in flute performance at Memorial University, where she is a student of Dr. Christine Gangelhoff. Memorial has a very large music department, though there are only six graduate music students. She plans to have a playing and teaching career, thrives on performing, and is inspired by every audience she performs for. Morgan is very much looking forward to hearing all the orchestral instruments bringing out the moods and character of the exciting Nielsen concerto.


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