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Theobald BOEHM (1794-1881)
Polonaise de Carafa, Op.8 (1825) [5:12]
Variations sur la marche de l’opéra Moïse (Rossini), Op.17 (1831) [10:05]
Variations brillantes sur un air allemande; Du, du liegst mir am Herzen, Op.22 (1838) [10:53]
Souvenir des Alpes; Six Morceaux de Salon, Op.22 No.2 Rondo allegro (1852) [4:22]
Rondo a la Mazurka, Op.36 (1857) [5:34]
Three Schubert Schwanengesang arranged by Theobald Boehm (1871); Ständchen [3:21]: Das Fischermädchen [2:47]: Am Meer [3:25]
Beethoven’s Trio Op.8 arranged by Theobald Boehm (1876) [16:37]
Konrad Hünteler (flutes)
Michaela Pühn (fortepiano)
rec. November 1995, Erbdrostenhof Münster

Theobald Boehm was one of the legendary revolutionaries in the development of his instrument, the flute. The ‘Boehm System’ was something of a sea-change in the construction of woodwind instruments but, perhaps ironically, the phrase ‘Boehm System’ itself seems to have lingered most in the collective memory because of developments in the clarinet. Boehm himself had nothing to do with that. Adherents of New Orleans jazz will know all about whether leading clarinettists gave up the Albert system in favour of the Boehm, or not. Little of which has much bearing on the real Boehm breakthrough which concerned complicated key systems, the use of silver flutes with gold embouchures, and much else besides. All these qualities were housed in one man, the Munich-born virtuoso and theoretician who had the genius to create, in succession, a series of flutes that over the years developed into the modern flute as we know it.
This recital was recorded way back in November 1995. It traces Boehm through the developmental-cum-musical staging posts in his creative life. Thus the 1825 Polonaise de Carafa predates his investigations into new fingerings and design. It is both ‘brilliant and popular’ exuding extrovert virtuosity every inch of the way. By 1831, the year he wrote Variations sur la marche de l’opéra Moïse, he had begun to realise the necessity for an overhaul of the flute. Though not a trained instrument-builder his imagination was untrammelled by convention and the result was remarkable. This is still played therefore on an older instrument from Boehm’s workshop. It is one perfectly suited to the Gallic roulades, registral leaps and brocades of great difficulty demanded of the reigning French virtuoso Louis Tulou. Tulou’s friendship with Boehm easily survived the Frenchman’s criticism of the latter’s new designs.
For Variations brillantes sur un air allemande; Du, du liegst mir am Herzen Konrad Hünteler plays a conical bore instrument with ringed keys. There’s an avian, aerial quality to the sound that is very seductive; a bright top too and a concentrated core sound. By the time of the 1852 Rondo allegro, the second of the Souvenir des Alpes, Boehm’s developments were in widespread use. A new type was unveiled in 1851, an instrument cannily praised by Berlioz who noted its sweet crystalline sound but that it was less full than the wooden flute. Nevertheless he predicted it would sweep aside the older flute within a few years. Hünteler plays a No.54 silver instrument and it vests the music with jaunty Alpine freshness - and just a hint of a yodel. Despite the seismic nature of Boehm’s advances, few original instruments have survived but one such is used in the recording of the three Schubert song transcriptions, which Boehm made in 1871. Maybe Boehm should have constructed a full-scale series of variations on Ständchen rather than indulging in ever-more showy decoration. In 1876, when he was 82 years old, he arranged Beethoven’s Serenade, Op.8 for flute and piano and it’s duly played here with thoughtful intelligence.
I’ve not yet mentioned Michaela Pühn, who plays a fortepiano, and is a most sensitive accompanist. Hünteler assumes centre-stage with considerable dash and technical eloquence. His notes are a splendid read and I’m indebted to them. Flautists, or flutists, should find much to interest them in this release.
Jonathan Woolf