Primiani’s Evocative New Piece

You know the saying: “when in Vegas….”  Well, there’s a Leanna Primiani premiere in Las Vegas, and we’re talking!

Aaron Goldman, flutist; Photo: David Ashman

On August 9th, Primiani’s new flute piece The Black Swan premieres at the 2012 National Flute Association Convention (NFA). A flutist herself, Primiani was commissioned by the NFA for its annual High School Soloist Competition for outstanding young performers. The eight-minute, single movement-work was inspired by the composer’s fascination with birdcalls. Soloist Aaron Goldman, (assistant principal flutist of the National Symphony) gives The Black Swan its first performance accompanied by pianist Dianne Frazer.

“I have always been fascinated with the sounds of birds,” Primiani shares, “as they are beautiful and melodic, harsh and noisy all at the same time. While researching this piece, I came across The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and its recording of Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song. This fascinating collection of North American birds, their behaviors and vocalizations provided the perfect backdrop for this work. Throughout the piece, I used birdcalls from water birds, forest birds and woodland birds. I notated the calls from roughly 15 different birds, then wove them together motivically, melodically and rhythmically to produce the majority of musical material from which to draw upon.”

Primiani continues, “The Black Swan mimics what someone might hear while hiking through any wilderness area in the United States. The piano takes the role of hiker, while the flute takes the role of the various birds heard throughout the hike. The piece begins with a short introduction by the piano and is quickly followed by a long cadenza by the flute, which introduces all of the bird songs that make up most of the musical material used in the piece.” Primiani creates many moods throughout the work. At times, the flute and piano come together in a haunting melodic section, which is interrupted by different birds whose songs are more agitated. Elsewhere, the piano acquires an accompaniment role. As the piece progresses, patterns are repeated with the birdcalls becoming progressively agitated until the piece ends with what Primiani calls “a wild flourish of birdcalls.”

Primiani’s other summer activities include conducting performances of standard and 20th-century repertoire for the California Opera. Primiani’s next world premiere comes in October when the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble gives the first performance of her chamber work Holy Order: Shaker Dances.

Leanna Primiani has written a wonderfully evocative new piece for the NFA High School Competition. The Black Swan stretches the flute to its extreme registers and dynamics to vividly depict various bird calls. It is reminiscent of Messiaen’s “Le Merle Noir” in its artistic use of the flute to sound like birds. This is a wonderful new addition to our repertoire.          — Aaron Goldman, flute soloist


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