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"Flute Concertos from Vienna"

Sieglinde Größinger, transverse flute
Ensemble Klingekunst
Dir: Sieglinde Größinger

rec: August 31 - Sept 4, 2016, Vienna, Kollegium Kalksburg (chapel)
CPO - 555 076-2 (© 2017) (62'30")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Giuseppe BONNO (1711-1788): Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in G; Florian Leopold GASSMANN (1729-1774): Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in c minor; Georg Matthias MONN (1717-1750): Concerto for harpsichord, transverse flute, violin and bass in B flat; Georg Christoph WAGENSEIL (1715-1777): Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in D; Concerto for transverse flute, two violins and bc in G

Elisabeth Wiesbauer, Roswitha Dokalik, violin; Martina Reiter, viola; Pavel Serbin, cello; Herwig Neugebauer, violone; David Bergmüller, lute; Maja Mijatovic, harpsichord

For many centuries the Habsburg dynasty played a key role at the European political scene. Its power found its expression in cultural life at the court in Vienna. Music took an important place as it was considered one of the main instruments of representation. The music written for or performed at the imperial court is well documented on disc. The same goes for another period of musical flourishing: the last quarter of the 18th century, to which the names of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven are inextricably connected. As is so often the case, the music from the period in between has seriously suffered from a lack of interest. Three of the composers represented in the programme of the present disc are household names. But how many music lovers have heard compositions by Wagenseil, Monn or Gassmann? They certainly don't appear regularly on disc or on concert programmes. The fourth composer included in the programme, Giuseppe Bonno, was quite famous in his own time, but is largely forgotten today. It is telling that all the pieces in the programme are recorded here for the first time.

They document major changes at the Viennese music scene. In 1736 the deputy Kapellmeister Antonio Caldara died, followed in 1741 by the Kapellmeister Johann Joseph Fux. The previous year emperor Charles VI died. With the passing away of these three key figures in music life at the court, an era came to an end. In 1746, Charles' daughter Maria Theresia appointed Georg Reutter the Younger as Kapellmeister. Stylistically he represented a different era than Fux and Caldara.

This was not all. Due to political developments and their financial consequences, the court chapel took a back seat. Operas were mainly performed in the Burgtheater, which opened in 1748. Music life at large moved from the court to the palaces of the aristocracy, who often had their own orchestras. This also resulted to a change in repertoire. In the field of instrumental music the musicians in the service of aristocrats played chamber music, divertimentos, symphonies and solo concertos. The present disc is devoted to the latter genre, and more in particular concertos for the transverse flute.

In the course of the 18th century the flute had developed into one of the most revered instruments, especially among amateurs. This explains the large amount of music for flute or with flute parts, such as trio sonatas, quartets and quintets. For some reason the flute was not very popular in Vienna. Elisabeth Theresia Hilscher, in her liner-notes, states: "Compared to Berlin and Potsdam, the flute (flauto traverso) played a subordinate role and was rarely employed, not even in operas and cantatas. The court chapel did not retain a single noteworthy flautist until the mid-19th century. Whenever the need arose, flutes of various types were played by oboists or other instrumentalists."

It is therefore likely that the concertos recorded here were written on commission. Considering that the cadenzas are all written out, we may conclude that they were intended for amateurs, more in particular noblemen-dilettantes. That does not mean that the flute parts are simple. In fact, most of them are quite demanding, a further testimony of the skills of musical amateurs of the 18th century.

The programme opens and closes with two concertos by Georg Christoph Wagenseil. He was born and stayed all his life in Vienna, although during the course of his career he travelled twice to Italy for performances of his operas. In 1739 he was appointed as composer to the imperial court at the recommendation of Johann Joseph Fux who had a high opinion of him. This was shared by many in his time; the number of his compositions which were printed bears witness to that. His operas were performed at Eisenstadt, when Haydn was at the helm of the court chapel, and Mozart played one of his organ concertos and several of his keyboard works in public concerts. Although he composed in most genres in vogue in his time, he was first and foremost a keyboard virtuoso and a sought-after teacher. Among his pupils were Leopold Hofmann and Franz Xaver Dussek. The two flute concertos date from 1750 and are scored for flute, strings and bass. There is one difference: the Concerto in G omits a viola part. The flute mostly dialogues with the two violins. It is in particular in the slow movements that the strings take a back seat, and the flautist is given the opportunity to shine and to show his skills. The cadenzas are especially demanding. The opening movement of the Concerto in G bears the traces of the Sturm und Drang, with regular pauses and some melodic twists and turns.

Although Giuseppe Bonno was born in Vienna, he was of Italian origin; his father was from Brescia. From 1726 to 1736 he studied in Naples with Francesco Durante and Leonardo Leo. After his return he was for some time in the service of the court, receiving further instructions from Fux. From 1749 to 1761 he worked for an aristocrat, and here Gluck and Dittersdorf were among his colleagues. In 1774 he became Kapellmeister at the imperial court. Bonno played an important role in Viennese musical life; for many years he was active as conductor and later also as president of the Tonkünstler-Societät. As a composer of music for the stage he cooperated closely with Pietro Metastasio. The Concerto in G seems to be Bonno's only work of this kind. In this piece the central role of the flute is underlined in that regularly the bass keeps silent. In the last movement Bonno makes use of the form of the rondo, which was to become increasingly popular during the second half of the 18th century.

When Bonno became Kapellmeister at the imperial court in 1774 he succeeded Florian Leopold Gassmann, who had been appointed as such in 1772. He was from Bohemia and had been educated as a singer and on the violin and the harp. He stayed several years in Italy, and composed several operas for Venice. His qualities in this genre resulted in his being appointed as ballet composer in Vienna, as succesor to Gluck. Gassmann later visited Venice again and brought Antonio Salieri with him, who became his pupil. Gassmann was held in high esteem by his contemporaries, including often critical minds such as Charles Burney and Mozart. Besides his production of theatre works he is especially important for the development of the genre of the symphony; the work-list in New Grove mentions 33 such works. This list mentions only one concerto, scored for flute; that must be the Concerto in c minor included here; it dates from 1760. Like Bonno Gassmann sometimes omits the bass in order to highlight the flute part. The solo part in the slow movement is highly embellished which makes it very demanding, including 32nd and 64th notes and chromaticism. The embellishment are fully written out.

The remaining piece in the programme is different from the others. The Concerto in B flat by Georg Matthias Monn is in fact a piece of chamber music, as it is scored for harpsichord, transverse flute, violin and bass. Monn treats the four instruments on equal footing in the two fast movements. The slow movement is a duet of harpsichord and flute; the violin keeps silent, and the bass delivers some modest support. Monn is considered one of the most innovative composers of his time in Vienna, and played a key role in the development of the keyboard concerto. He also composed symphonies, string quartets and sonatas for keyboard. Monn was for most of his rather short life organist at the Karlskirche in Vienna.

This disc has been made possible by a crowdfunding campaign, called 'The unknown Vienna'. The money is well spent, because this recording is highly interesting. It sheds light on music from Vienna, written in a period which is still seriously underrated. Recordings of music by Wagenseil, Monn and Gassmann are long overdue, and one has to hope that ensembles and individual performers are willing to delve into their oeuvre. The concertos recorded here show that this is well worth the effort. These are very fine concertos, which are substantial additions to the repertoire. This is the second disc of this ensemble; I didn't know it and missed its first recording. This disc is a winner in every respect. The repertoire is of great importance, and Sieglinde Größinger and her colleagues are outstanding advocates of these pieces. Größinger is a brilliant performer who deals impressively with the technical requirements of the solo parts. The violins also play a major role in these concertos, and the two players are excellent. Lovers of the flute certainly should not miss this disc, but even if you have no special preference for the flute, you will greatly enjoy these performances.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

Sieglinde Größinger
Ensemble Klingekunst

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