Monday, November 2, 2015

SCHUBERT Flute and Piano Music

Written for the virtuoso Ferdinand Bogner, the Variations on Trockne Blumen from Die schöne Müllerin , Schubert’s only original composition for flute and an instrumental tour de force , takes its theme from the climactic song of the cycle The Fair Maid of the Mill . Six other songs, from Schubert’s final cycle, Winterreise, and the posthumous Schwanengesang, arranged for flute and piano by Theobald Boehm, complement a highly effective transcription of the much-loved Arpeggione Sonata by flautist and conductor Uwe Grodd.

"The flute repertoire contains a number of works by Schubert, although many of them are arrangements. His flute writing in the symphonies is often quite soloistic—particularly in the fifth symphony—and his music lends itself well to the flute sound.

The Arpeggione sonata was originally composed for an instrument of that name, a type of bowed guitar which is now obsolete. The work lives on in several arrangements, for viola, cello and also flute.  Each of the flute transcriptions—there are a few—is subtly different. That by Uwe Grodd adds some further embellishment in the slow movement. This performance is a good one—the piano sound is clear and bright, and there is a good sense of partnership between the players. At times I would have liked a clearer flute sound to match that of the piano, as the microphones sometimes pick up air in the sound. The music is well phrased, and Grodd makes use of some lovely tone colours. The music is allowed to sing without being overly forced and the performers do not give in to self-indulgence.

Schubert is perhaps best known for his songs, and Theobald Boehm, developer of the modern flute, made arrangements of six of these for flute—or later for his newly invented alto flute—and piano. The first two of these songs come from Winterreise while the remaining four belong to Schwanengesang. These are wonderful arrangements, which are mostly simple and include some variation-like embellishment of the original theme. The themes are lyrical and expressive, and are played here with sensitivity. A particular favourite of mine is Ständchen, with its dark harmonies, mournful theme and turbulent climax.

Schubert’s original flute work, the Variations on Trockne Blumen is a substantial work, lasting over twenty minutes. The breathtaking introduction takes the dark harmonic mood of Ständchen and develops the lines further. This is a truly stunning opening which allows the flute an opportunity to show its rich, dark sonorous qualities. The minor key theme ends in the major, reflecting the poem (from Die schöne Müllerin), and this pattern is maintained throughout the majority of the variations. The work is a true duo, with complex technical displays for both instruments." --MusicWeb International, March 2009

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