Flute and Harp (Balint, Mercz) (Janos Balint/ László Beck/ Nora Mercz) (Naxos: 8.550741)
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Romantic Music for Flute and Harp
The combination of flute and harp is one that is peculiarlysatisfying, the one instrument a foil to the other. The eleven transcriptions recordedstart with the Intermezzo from Bizet's Spanish opera Carmen, a realistic drama of love,jealousy and murder, set in Seville. The Intermezzo that serves as an entr'acte before ActIII sets the scene as the gypsy smugglers climb to their stronghold in the mountains,ready for a new enterprise, joined by Carmen and the soldier, Don Jose, whom she hasseduced. The Minuet (4) is a transcription drawn from Bizet's score for the melodrama L'Arlesienne, a collaboration with the writerAlphonse Daudet, but now better known as part of a suite drawn from the original work.
The Meditation fromMassenet's opera Thais enjoys the greatest popularity. The opera, first staged in Paris in1894, is based on a novel by Anatole France and centres on the courtesan turned saint ofthe title. The Meditation, an Intermezzo in the second act of the opera, depicts inmusical terms the conversion of the worldly Tha?»s and later is recalled as she parts forever from Athana?½l, the monk instrumental in her conversion, but tormented by her beauty.
Auguste Durand, whose name is well known as the founder of adistinguished French firm of music publishers, was a fellow-student of Cesar Franck andSaint- Sa?½ns, and later the publisher of their works. The Waltz in E flat major, Opus 83, is an originalcomposition for harp. His Chaconne (7) isalso an original work for the same instrument.
The music of Debussy often lends itself particularly well toflute and harp transcription, since both instruments have an important part to play in hisorchestral scores, and have a special and evocative place in his chamber music in aremarkable sonata for flute, viola and harp. En bateau is the first movement of Debussy'sPetite Suite for piano duet, completed and published in 1889.
The name of Maurice Ravel is often coupled with that ofDebussy, an implied comparison that was pleasing to neither. With a mother from the Basqueregion and a Paris home background that had in it a Spanish element, he was well able tocapture the spirit of Spain in music crafted with the meticulous precision that heinherited from his Swiss father. The Vocalise-etude enforme de habanera was written in 1907.
In the period that immediately preceded that of Mozart, Gluckoccupied a position of pre-eminence in opera, both in Vienna and in Paris, associated, ashe was, with a reform in the genre, allowing a more realistic balance between music anddrama. The reform began in 1762 with his opera Orfeo edEuridice, in 1774 adapted for Paris in a French version. The plot concerns theattempt by the legendary musician of the ancient world, Orpheus, to bring back from theUnderworld his beloved Euridice. The Dance of theBlessed Spirits is well known as a work for solo flute. It is, in fact, a partonly of a more extended ballet that comes in the second act of the French version of theopera.
Mozart is said to have disliked the flute, but wrote splendidlyfor the instrument, even while he complained at the necessity of doing so. In Paris in1778 he wrote one of the most beautiful of concertos that combines flute and harp. Towardsthe end of the preceding year he had embarked on other commissions that involved theflute, at the request of a Dutch amateur, De Jean, through the agency of friends atMannheim, where Mozart had spent much of the winter. The Andante, K. 315, is analternative slow movement for the Flute Concerto in Gmajor written for De Jean.
Fryderyk Chopin wrote almost exclusively for the piano, theinstrument that he himself played, and taught after settling in Paris in 1831. HisVariations on a theme from Rossini's Cinderella opera LaCenerentola were written in Warsaw in 1824, at the age of fourteen, and scoredfor flute and piano. The work was published only posthumously.
The name of Edmund Schuecker is best known to harpists. Born inVienna in 1860, he enjoyed a successful career in Europe before, in 1891, joining theChicago Symphony Orchestra. He returned to Vienna in 1900 at Mahler's invitation, when hejoined the Court Opera. His Opus 12 Mazurka isthe most often heard of his pieces for solo harp.
Transcribers have found a happy source for duo arrangements inthe Hindu song from Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Sadko. The hero of the title, a merchant andmusician, with some of the powers of a Russian Orpheus, before setting out on hisadventures in foreign trade, asks a Viking, an Indian and a Venetian to describe theircountries. The Hindu song is taken from this scene and gives an account of the wealth ofIndia.
The nineteenth century, a period in which the pianofortelargely displaced the harp as an instrument for the demonstration of femaleaccomplishment, brought a ready market for short and attractive piano pieces. Tchaikovsky,like many of his contemporaries, provided suitable piano music, often earning more fromits sale than from his more ambitious orchestral works. The Valse sentimentale is the sixth of a set of pianopieces written in 1882 during summer weeks spent at his sister's estate at Kamenka. As hetold his brother Modest in a letter, the pieces were written entirely for the money, whichhe badly needed.
The younger Johann Strauss, who inherited his father's giftsand dominated the world of light music in Vienna for half a century after the olderStrauss's death, produced a phenomenal amount of dance music, waltzes, quadrilles, marchesand polkas. His Tritsch-Tratsch Polka, firstperformed during a Russian summer season at Pavlovsk, outside St. Petersburg, derives itstitle from a Viennese satirical publication, that took its own name from a play by theViennese singer, actor and playwright Nestroy. The title suggests tittle-tattle.
The Hungarian flautist Janos Balint was born in 1961 andcompleted his studies at the Liszt Academy in Budapest in 1984, when he won first prize atthe Ancona Competition, followed by a Cziffra award in 1986. From 1981 to 1991 he wasprincipal flautist of the Hungarian Radio and Television Orchestra (Budapest SymphonyOrchestra). He is well known as a soloist and chamber musician, appearing with musiciansof the greatest distinction and is a member of the teaching staff of Szeged Conservatoryand a visiting professor at the Respighi Academy in Rome.
A member of the teaching staff of the Liszt Academy in Budapestsince 1976, the Hungarian harpist Nora Mercz followed her own studies at the Academy witha further period of study in Russia. She enjoys a distinguished career as a soloist bothin Hungary and abroad and in 1992 established the Hungarian Harp Centre, where she devotesmuch energy to the collection, performance and publication of works for harp written byHungarian composers.