by Peggy Doerrie, UMFA Newsletter (Jan-Feb-March 2012)
Catherine Ramirez presented an amazing faculty recital on September 28, 2011 at St. Olaf College where she is Assistant Professor of Flute and Theory (since September of 2010). She was assisted by Lori Folland on piano. Since Catherine's doctoral studies have been at Rice University with Leone Buyse, it seemed appropriate to include an article about her in this newsletter. This November Catherine completed her dissertation defense to complete her degree. Her doctoral document is entitled "The Soloist's Path to Optimal Musical Communication". Catherine graciously shared regarding it in response to some of my questions (at end of this article). We also want to thank Dr. Catherine Ramirez and St. Olaf College for their collaboration with UMFA in bringing Leone Buyse to Minnesota for Flute Fest 2011.
Catherine opened her recital with an enchanting piece called Barcarolle Melancolique by Charles Edouard Lefebvre (1843-1917). The incredible pianissimo playing throughout was mesmerizing, especially to open a recital with! Every single passage had considerable dynamic variation, but all was kept within the soft volume range of the flute. It carried well out in the hall due to the quality of the tone. It was so very gentle, haunting and seemed effort-free with a sense of ease from within. Next came Sonatine by Henri Dutilleux (b. 1916) followed by Fantaisie on Themes from “Der Freischutz” by Paul Taffanel (1844-1908) for the first half of the recital. Rather than a “play by play” description I prefer to simply share some of the impressions that I wrote down as I listened. Smooth tapestry, incredible technical control, sense of being deeply in love with the beauty of the theme, dark/rich/warm then transported into light joy which tumbles, twirls and springs with acrobatic ease. There was bravura on the part of the piano with a sense of theatrical drama. Catherine gave each phrase its proper shape and time, seamless, shimmer, spin-sing sort of sound. Dark velvet interspersed with glimmers of light. Like water, iridescent flow. Her facial expression was like that of a pleased young child enjoying the beauty about her. Stance was secure and confident. The composer Taffanel was certainly putting the flutist through her paces in his Fantaisie. Bright clear tone, just masterful, fast demanding passages in total control. She takes such quiet powerful breaths! Creates an imaginative sound scape. Imprint of sound, draws you into listening and absorbing.
The second half of the recital was primarily the Cinq Incantations for Solo Flute by Andre Jolivet (1905-1974). The program notes for the recital were very thorough in giving history and understanding of the works. “This 5-movement work deals with the life cycle and the idea of the harvest. Written shortly after the death of his mother, this work calls forth expansive and coiled lines, repetition of motives to reinforce the incantatory character, and a heart rending intensity of the flute sound. It is Jolivet's particular use of repetition that results in an equally static, evolutionary and spellbinding atmosphere.” Catherine captivated the audience. We were held in silence throughout this demanding unaccompanied work. It required great interpretative concentration and physical stamina to perform this lengthy work. There were chanting ethnic sounds with high screams combined with percussive effects along with deep dark pools (low register) all in an improvisatory type of feel, but requiring incredibly precise playing. The final piece was Song Without Words by Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) which was just lovely!
At the close of the recital Catherine gave a gracious dignified bow to a standing ovation with a sincere smile of mastery and joy in her accomplishment. There was a large diverse audience, many adults as well as many students. Two UMFA flute friends who were also there gave me comments to share: “She captivates the audience with her impeccable technique, sensitive playing and complete control.” “Her playing displays every color in the spectrum.” In reviewing Dr. Ramirez's full page impressive About the Artist biography in the program it seems best to share that besides all the awards, prestigious study and extensive performing that she already has to her credit, Catherine is a strong advocate for music education. “While in Houston, she proposed, organized and presented a concert series of accessible Latin and South American chamber music for specific audiences of 'at-risk' youth and their families, for those recovering from the effects of addictions, and for children who do not have access to live concert music, particularly those with autism and other developmental challenges. Ms. Ramirez has taught music in five U.S. States and in Italy.” One other very interesting thing is that she “started playing the flute in public school band at age 12, beginning private study at age 18. Despite the late start, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music performance from Occidental College in Los Angeles, an Honors Diploma from the Boccherini Music Institute in Italy, and Masters Degrees in flute performance from Queens College in New York and the Yale University School of Music. She is a Doctor of Musical Arts degree candidate at Rice University.”
My impression when I first met her is that she has this genuine, open and caring manner about her. We are fortunate to have Catherine Ramirez as a member of UMFA.
by Peggy Doerrie, UMFA Newsletter (Jan-Feb-March 2012)