Silver, Wood & Ivory,
Autumn Air
(independent, 2005)

When I paid my admission to a high-end craft fair, the last thing I expected was to come home with a CD, but that's what happened. After walking around the more than 100 booths at the Pennsylvania Guild State Craft Fair, my wife and I needed to rest our feet. Fortunately, we found two vacant chairs near the live entertainment.

Silver, Wood & Ivory is a professional duo from Lancaster County, Pa. Tracy Dietrich and Cindy Keller Wittenberg have found a comfortable niche for themselves playing at prestigious arts and crafts shows throughout the country, as well as banquets and concerts.

Normally, flute and piano/keyboard music is a barely noticeable background sound to me; it was not something I would buy. But as we sat there resting, I became mesmerized by the sounds wafting over me. At the time, Dietrich was playing her virtual orchestra of flutes, including wooden, alto and bass flutes, piccolo, soprano and alto recorders, pennywhistle and pan flute.

Playing along with their recordings -- occasionally pausing to talk to passersby who stopped to listen -- Dietrich showed her versatility and expertise as she switched from one instrument to the next. The different sounds were striking and noticeably enhanced the music. I was impressed by the clarity of each note when she was playing some of the larger flutes. I've heard professional flutists try to play these instruments and frequently the sound of rushing air is heard coming from the instrument rather than a pure musical note.

I regret that Wittenberg was not also playing while we were there, but after listening to the CD, it's obvious she has a definite flair for these instruments. On the recording, she plays an Alexander Scriabine prelude for the left hand alone -- a fact I did not realize until I paid a little more attention to the liner notes.

Silver, Wood & Ivory has recorded six CDs. I chose Autumn Air -- their most recent -- which has a well-chosen variety of light classical, sacred and contemporary pieces. Many of the selections were originally written for full orchestra, but Dietrich and Wittenberg use their unique arrangements to showcase their individual talents and the range of their various instruments. They play several sprightly J.S. Bach pieces including "Sonata No. 2," "Air in D" and "Wachet Auf." The second movement of Maurice Ravel's "Piano Concerto in G" is also beautifully done.

One of the more interesting tracks is SWI's version of "Amazing Grace." The melody is carried by Dietrich on a variety of flutes while Wittenberg plays a series of delicate riffs as background. The mellow strains of the Celtic melody "Morning Has Broken" open with the sound of birds chirping followed by the serene interplay of the instruments.

Flutes have such a delicate and haunting tone and if there is any criticism of Autumn Air it's that the piano/keyboard sometimes seems to overpower the flutes, especially when playing chords. The selections "On Eagle's Wings" and "How Beautiful" are two such examples. To my ear, a little pianissimo on the ivories might create a better sense of balance and harmony.

I've never been a huge fan of flutes except for something like pennywhistles in Celtic music. Silver, Wood & Ivory has gone a long way to change my thinking. Their sparkling combination of the silver and wood of the flutes and the ivory of the keyboard is pure listening pleasure.

by Bill Knapp
12 August 2006

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