Five months on from Azeem Ward’s Senior Flute Recital, it is incredible how so many people are still captivated by his concerts all over the country. In May this year, whilst studying at the University of California, Azeem became an internet sensation through his recital’s Facebook event, attracting over 50, 000 people to watch the live stream. Having such a well-known and admired flautist performing in Durham’s contemporary music concert (featuring mainly 20th century but also some 21st century compositions) was an amazing way to promote and share new music to audiences who otherwise might have been oblivious to works of those such as John Cage. It was such a treat to have both Durham University Orchestral Society and Azeem performing in such a characterful venue as the Assembly rooms.
The first half of the concert consisted of five varied contemporary pieces played by an ensemble from DUOS. The five pieces were ‘Five’ by John Cage, ‘O King’ by Luciano Berio, ‘Retro Lykke’ by Sondre Bryntesen (a Music student from Durham University), ‘Lamento’ by Aldo Clementi and finally ‘Caravanfanfan-farefare No.2’ by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen.
This repertoire was very different from the usual works that DUOS performs but everyone still embraced these pieces and performed to an extremely high standard nonetheless. Although there was an occasional issue with the dynamic balance between certain instruments, it is evident that these players all perform together on a regular basis as the communication between each of them throughout the concert was exceptional. Everyone seemed very much at ease with the challenging repertoire, using techniques such as col legno and flutter tonguing as if it was a regular occurrence in their playing.
As someone who is always a tad sceptical when it comes to contemporary music I rather enjoyed these five pieces as the variety of timbres throughout each piece was extremely colourful and each performer was able to execute articulation in great detail, creating depth, excitement and tension. It was amazing how professional and well-rehearsed this DUOS ensemble sounded considering they only had days to practice this incredibly intricate and demanding repertoire. It was a delight and true inspiration to watch, as always.
In the second half of the concert, Azeem performed his own composition: Sonata for Flute and Piano, and he certainly met and exceeded prior expectations. His technical skill, as well as his ability to engage with both the piano (Jonathan Whittaker) and the audience, managed to captivate everyone in the room. His composition was a nice contrast with the DUOS repertoire as it was much more melodic and had some jazzy and dance-like elements to it.
Azeem’s general presence on stage was very endearing as he smiled throughout the performance, occasionally giving the audience a thumbs up and he even agreed to attend an audience members predrinks!
After the concert I managed to speak to Azeem about his composition and the wide genres of music that he is involved in. His knowledge and passion for music is spectacular, plus he was extremely humble, praising DUOS for their immense stamina for learning the repertoire in such a short space of time. I am sure DUOS would agree that it was a privilege to perform with him and would love to have this opportunity again.