This interview originally aired on November 11, 2020. We rebroadcast it on February 17, 2020.
Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Brandon Patrick George: Flute Sonatas & Solo Works (Profil)
"I saw it hanging in a pawn shop window. And I just thought it was the most beautiful thing. And I remember when I was in elementary school, the kids carrying around their different cases for band class. And there was the big bulky trombone case that could stand straight up or the big saxophone or trumpet case. But what I was really interested in was this rectangular case that was like so small and compact, almost like a little lunchbox."
Brandon Patrick George, BPG to his friends, grew up in Dayton, Ohio, listening to all kinds of music. On the weekend, he was inspired by the music at his grandmother's Baptist church. And she was the one who introduced him to PBS' Live From Lincoln Center classical music performances. Since then, his career as a professional flutist has been a whirlwind of exciting opportunities. He also just released his debut solo recording.
You have been a member of Imani Winds now since 2018, succeeding Valerie Coleman, the founder of the ensemble. What has that meant for you to be part of this group?
"Joining Imani Winds was totally a dream come true. I remember when I was a student in college and they came to perform that was just also inspiring to me to see people on the stage playing at that level. But they looked like me and they came from, you know, similar backgrounds."
How did you choose what music would appear on your first solo effort?
"I wanted a program that would show the different styles of music that I can play, that interest me, that speak to me. And I also wanted of program for a lack of better words maybe it was a go big or go home type program.
"And also, there was another layer, is that I was very interested at the time and composers who I guess you could call innovators or who were sort of forward thinking and looking forward. And also, composers who were looking back and sort of drawing inspiration on traditions that had come before."
So let's talk about the two contemporary works on this debut release. How is the Sonatina, by Pierre Boulez, an important work for the flute repertoire?
"The flute has a bit of a reputation for being this pretty, charming, and bird like instrument, as maybe we've heard over the years. Boulez completely flips that notion on its head. He goes as far as asking the flutist to play with a strident tone and even more so to play violently. That's not something that flutists are very often asked to do.
"The Boulez sonatina was actually a work that was intended for Jean-Pierre Rampal. He was my flute hero as a young boy. I went to sleep listening to his recordings."
Kalevi Aho is a contemporary Finnish composer. On this recording, you're featuring an unusual instrument on his piece, Solo Three, and it kind of helps you highlight the broad tonal possibilities of the flute. Tell me more about the platinum flute.
"Yes. The platinum flute is a flute that was made for the World's Fair, I believe, in 1939 by Verne Powell, in Boston, Massachusetts. I was loaned this platinum flute, from a private owner. And I absolutely had to find a way to showcase this instrument on the album."
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.