Looking through the four weeks of the Wigmore Hall’s current lunchtime series it’s clear that the emphasis is on mainstream repertoire, programmes aimed at as wide a home audience as possible. For a flautist, that’s a bit harder to plan than it is for, say, a singer or a pianist – the flute’s emancipation as a solo instrument really came in the last 100 years, when its repertoire widened more rapidly than it had in any musical epoch since the baroque. So, apart from Mozart’s rather inconsequential Andante and Rondo, Adam Walker’s recital with the pianist James Baillieu focused on 20th-century pieces; alongside Dutilleux’s Sonatine and Poulenc’s Sonata were shorter pieces by Anne Boyd, Oliver Knussen and Messiaen.
Whether or not it convinced as a whole was more debatable. Walker is an outstanding performer, and technically some of his playing was remarkable – the speed at which he took the Presto finale of the Poulenc, while still managing to articulate every note, for instance, was extraordinary. But it did trivialise the sonata – its slow movement, surely, has more real intensity than Walker and Baillieu suggested – and the Dutilleux really didn’t have the impact and character one remembered.
If Boyd’s Goldfish Through Summer Rain sounded more Messiaenic than Messiaen’s own early Vocalise-Étude, then Knussen’s unaccompanied Masks, a “dramatic miniature” in which the performer moves around the stage, sometimes playing with their back to the audience, inevitably lost some of its theatrical edge with no live audience to watch it. What seemed to be lacking was a real centre to the recital; it all seemed just a bit too lightweight.
• Available on the Wigmore Hall website and BBC Sounds. The Wigmore Hall lunchtime series continues until 26 June.