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Leopold KOZELUCH (1747 - 1818): "Sonatas for Fortepiano, Flute and Cello"

Monika Knoblochová, fortepiano; Jana Semerádová, transverse flute; Hana Fleková, cello

rec: March & May 2011, Prague, Martínek Studio
Supraphon - SU 4106-2 (© 2012) (80'57")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/Cz
Cover & track-list

A Grand Scotch Sonata for keyboard, transverse flute/violin and cello in D (P IX,D1) (attr); Sonata for keyboard, transverse flute/violin and cello in C, op. 34,3 (P IX,26) [1]; Sonata for keyboard, transverse flute/violin and cello in C, op. 40,2 (P IX,32) [3]; Sonata for keyboard, transverse flute/violin and cello in e minor, op. 40,3 (P IX,33) [3]; Sonata for keyboard, transverse flute/violin and cello in F, op. 37,2 (P IX,29) [2]

Sources: [1] Partie X. Contenante Trois Sonates Pour le Clavecin ou Piano-Forte avec l'Accompagnement d'une Flute ou d'un Violon et Violoncelle, op. 34, 1791; [2] Partie XII. Contenante Trois Sonates Pour le Clavecin ou Piano forte avec l'Accompagnement d'une Flute ou un Violon et Violoncelle, op. 37, 1792; [3] Partie X. Contenante Trois Sonates Pour le Clavecin ou Piano Forte avec l'accompagnement d'une Flute ou d'un Violon et Violoncelle, op. 40, 1795

Leopold Kozeluch was one of the many musicians from Bohemia who played a prominent role at the European music scene in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He didn't plan a career in music from the onset as he studied law in Prague. However, music played an important role in his life, because at the same time he was educated in music by his cousin Johann Antonin and by Franz Xaver Dussek. His first compostions were ballets and pantomimes which had so much success that he decided to become a full-time musician. He settled in Vienna where he made a reputation as player and teacher of the keyboard and as a composer. He founded a publishing company which not only printed his own music but also compositions by others. Much of his music was simultaneously printed in other centres in Europe, for instance in London.

This disc sheds light on an important part of his chamber music: trios for keyboard, violin or flute and cello. He composed 63 trios, which were published as 'sonatas', mostly in collections of three. These have the then most common form: the keyboard has the main part, the two melody instruments are additions. The role of the violin or flute is various, whereas the cello mostly duplicates the bass line of the keyboard. These trios are in three movements: the first is a fast movement in sonata form, the last a rondo. The middle movements have a lyrical and often song-like character; they sometimes include variations.

In the majority of the trios the treble part is given to the violin. In some this part is written for the transverse flute, but always with the violin being mentioned as an alternative. The title pages mention the harpsichord and the fortepiano as equal options, but the character of the keyboard parts and the dynamic indications which with time take an increasingly prominent place suggest that the fortepiano is the most obvious choice. Kozeluch's contemporaries praised him for his role in the development of a true piano style which contributed to the disappearance of the harpsichord in favour of the fortepiano.

The genre of the sonata for keyboard with instrumental accompaniment was quite popular at the time as the large number of pieces of this kind shows. That includes the more than 40 trios from Haydn's pen. Such pieces were basically aimed at the growing market of skilled amateurs. That doesn't mean that this is simple diverting music. The diverting elements are certainly present, especially in the closing rondos, but this music is substantial, and there are even some dramatic elements, for instance in the opening allegro from the Sonata in F. It reminds us of the fact that Kozeluch was a successful composer of operas. Unfortunately all but one of his compositions in this genre are lost.

Interesting is the Grand Scotch Sonata in D which dates from 1799 and which could be the result of Kozeluch's contacts with the publisher George Thomson from Edinburgh. Kozeluch was one of the composers - like Pleyel before him and Haydn and Beethoven after him - who was asked by Thomson to arrange Scottish, Irish and Welsh folksongs. He made almost 170 of such arrangements which were printed in London in 1798 and 1809. In this sonata he also incorporates Scottish folksongs. It has to be said, though, that the authenticity of this work has not been established.

The three interpreters deliver engaging and technically immaculate performances. Monika Knoblochová uses a copy of a Walter fortepiano which seems the right choice considering the time of publication of these trios: between 1791 (op. 34) and 1799. Jana Semerádová plays a copy of a Grenser flute of the same time (c1790). She produces a fine and strong tone; sometimes I wondered whether the flute was a little too prominent considering its rather subordinate role.

This disc which sheds light on a composer who is unjustly neglected deserves an unreserved welcome. I hope that it will lead to a more thorough exploration of his oeuvre.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Monika Knoblochová
Jana Semerádová

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