Home flute World Premiere: Paul Desenne’s Double Flute Concerto Takes Center Stage in Oberlin

World Premiere: Paul Desenne’s Double Flute Concerto Takes Center Stage in Oberlin

by Madonna

After a decade in the making, Paul Desenne’s eagerly anticipated Concerto for Two Flutes and Orchestra will finally see the light of day in Oberlin. The long-awaited premiere, championed by Oberlin flute professor Alexa Still, is scheduled for Wednesday, November 1, with conductor Raphael Jiménez leading the Oberlin Orchestra, and student Dylan Masariego as co-soloist.

Paul Desenne, a renowned cellist and composer, began crafting this concerto in 2012, completing the commission in 2013. The 30-minute, three-movement composition is scored for a relatively large orchestra and explores the concept of the meta-instrument—a technique that blends timbres into an autonomous entity, producing an acoustic illusion. Desenne’s work delves into diverse soundscapes, inspired by modern Latin American, Caribbean, and Venezuelan Baroque influences.

Alexa Still’s unwavering enthusiasm for the concerto led to its realization. She recalls, “I think it’s an unbelievably good piece. His music is always very complex, with an amazing mix of sounds from nature and folk songs from Venezuela.”

Desenne’s music came to Still’s attention through a Venezuelan flute student she once taught. Impressed by his work, she advocated for a premiere performance of the double flute concerto through the National Flute Association. Overcoming obstacles such as a dense and hard-to-read score, she was determined to bring this masterpiece to life. In the meantime, she commissioned Desenne to compose his Second Sonata for Flute and Piano, which she premiered in 2018.

The catalyst for the concerto’s premiere was Raphael Jiménez, director of Oberlin Orchestras and a longtime friend of Desenne. Both share roots in Venezuela’s renowned El Sistema music education program. In 2020, Jiménez conducted successful performances of two of Desenne’s works with the Oberlin Orchestra for “Oberlin Stage Left” broadcasts. The shared connection and commitment to expanding the musical repertoire led to their collaboration.

The project faced challenges, including the need for a readable score and presentable audio files for the National Flute Association Convention application. With Jiménez’s engagement and the willingness of flutist Dylan Masariego to step in as a co-soloist, a reading and recording session was organized. Despite last-minute changes, the performance exceeded expectations. However, the joy of sharing the recordings with Desenne was bittersweet, as he tragically passed away from a heart attack in May 2023.

In his memory, Still and Jiménez decided that the concerto should premiere at Oberlin. Carmen Marulanda, Desenne’s wife, played a vital role in preparing the score and parts for the performance.

Dylan Masariego, Oberlin’s co-soloist, described the experience as “exciting and unique.” The pressure of performing a concerto without a performance history was outweighed by the privilege of working closely with a great mentor.

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