MENDELSSOHN: Flute Concerto in D Minor / Flute Sonatas (Jean-Francois Chamberlan/ Luc Devos/ Marc Grauwels/ Wallonie Royal Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.555698)
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Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847) Music for Flute
Although there is already an extensive repertoire of music for the flute, much of it comes from the baroque and classical periods. The twentieth century too has developed a wide repertoire for the instrument, but during the romantic period of the nineteenth century two instruments reigned supreme, the violin and the piano, with a lesser degree of attention to the cello and the clarinet. The result is that we have only a limited number of major romantic compositions for the flute.
While the period may not have favoured the development of a solo flute repertoire, the instrument, with the piccolo, was nevertheless becoming an important and essential element in the symphony orchestra In chamber music, however, the relative lack of variety in tone colour failed to satisfy contemporary demands. This lack of romantic flute repertoire imposes severe limitation on programming, with the same works too often included. For along time Marc Grauwels has attempted to strike out into a new path by transcribing and adapting romantic repertoire for the flute. The modern instrument, the ingenious mechanism of which was invented by Theobald Bohm in Munich in 1850, has constantly been improved over the course of the last 150 years and now offers extraordinary possibilities of expression and tone colour, with potential brilliance in technical virtuoso performance. It is with this in mind that the transcription for the flute of works originally written for the violin may be considered.
The present release, therefore, includes transcriptions for flute by Marc Grauwels of early compositions by Felix Mendelssohn, a violin concerto and two sonatas for violin and piano. The practice of such transcription is not new and Mendelssohn's Violin Sonata in F major was adapted for flute and piano very soon after the death of the composer in 1847 and published in London under the title Farewell to Berlin. Marc Grauwels, however, has preferred to undertake a new adaptation that is closer to the original version.
Mendelssohn wrote his Violin Concerto in D minorin 1822, scoring it for solo violin and strings and dedicating it to his friend, the young violinist and conductor Eduard Rietz, who had taught him the violin and viola Rietz was a pupil of the French violinist and composer Pierre Rode, whose influence can be heard in the concerto. In the first movement the two contrasting subjects are heard in the orchestral introduction, before the entry of the soloist. This is followed by an expressive Andante and a spontaneous and lively final Allegro.
The Sonata in F minor, Op.4, originally for violin and piano, was written in May and June 1823. Showing something of the influence of Beethoven and particularly of the so-called Tempest Sonata, it was published in 1825, again with a dedication to Eduard Rietz. The first movement starts with a sustained note from the flute, the beginning of an Adagio recitative, before the piano introduces the first theme of the Allegro moderato, echoed by the flute. The slow movement opens with a theme worthy of Mozart, while the influence of Beethoven may be heard in the following chromatic modulations. The recitative with which the sonata had opened is heard again before the final section of the Allegro agitato with which the work end.
Mendelssohn completed his Sonata in F major, also originally for violin and piano, in 1838, when he had taken up the position of conductor of the Gewandhaus Orcbestra in Leipzig. It was probably written for Ferdinand David, leader of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and later a leading member of the teaching staff of the Leipzig Conservatory. It was David who helped Mendelssohn in the technical aspects of the composition of the Violin Concerto in E minor and was the soloist at the first performance, in 1845. For some reason the sonata remained unpublished and was rediscovered in 1952 by Yehudi Menuhin. The first movement offers a foretaste of the 1843 Cello Sonata, followed by an Adagio that suggests a Song without Words. The agitated finale, a rondo perpetuum mobile, carries this rarely played work forward to a brilliant conclusion.