No label has done so much for the cause of Giovanni Battista Viotti than Dynamic, this latest being something like the fifteenth or sixteenth monograph in a series stretching back to the early Nineties. The centre-point of their collection is Franco Mezzena's recordings of all 29 of Viotti's violin concertos on 10 CDs, recently available as a well-priced boxed set (CDS498). French composer François Devienne and his German contemporary Caspar Fürstenau were impressed enough by these marvellously inspired works to transcribe one of them for their own favoured instrument, the flute.
Those versions are what Mario Carbotta performs on Dynamic's latest entry - after all, Viotti himself did not write any flute concertos as such. The felicity of their arrangements is evident from the fact that both composers have made them sound like flute concerto originals, something in the style of those by another close contemporary, genre supremo Anton Hoffmeister - cf
. this recent Naxos release
- and occasionally Mozart himself. Changes made by both Devienne and Fürstenau range from the mere transference of register, adjustment to phrasing and (obviously) elimination of double-stopping, to the writing out of ornamentations and, in the latter's case, to "ascending and descending arpeggios, diatonic and chromatic scales spanning the entire tessitura from C3 to A6, a variety of embellishments - trills, mordents, simple and double appoggiaturas, not always present in the violin version ..." They are brilliantly played by Carbotta, who incorporates his own cadenzas. Dynamic's booklet mentions that a third concerto adaptation for flute was made by Luigi Gianella, but is now unfortunately lost. Sound quality here is very good.
Experienced Belgian flautist Marc Grauwels' recording for Naxos of two of Devienne's seventeen known flute concertos is over a decade old now - where are the follow-ups? - but still well worth the cover price. Devienne's music is nothing if not elegant and tuneful. Indeed, the booklet notes that Devienne was known as the 'French Mozart'. Concerto no.7's minor key brings a dash of mystique to proceedings - annotator Denis Verroust enthusiastically describes this work as "probably the best French flute concerto of the late eighteenth century." The orchestra's role is chiefly supportive, leaving the soloist to vaunt his/her technique with classical panache - as Grauwels does indeed do, especially in the final movement of the E minor. He and Devienne are at their best in the arrangement of cellist-composer Jean-Baptiste Bréval's Symphonie Concertante
, with a terrific turn also by bassoonist Alain De Reijckere. This work has some real Mozartean joie de vivre
coursing through its pages, leaving the listener wondering why there are not more works for this highly compatible pairing of instruments. The Naxos audio is good throughout, if slightly underlit.
The ClassicO CD features works by father and son Caspar (or Kaspar) and Anton Fürstenau billed at the time of its release in 1998 as 'world premiere recordings'. Alas, fifteen years later almost nothing by either of these German composers has been recorded by any label. Dynamic, to their credit, issued a disc of Caspar's 'Masonic Music' over a decade ago (CDS250). This surprisingly genial programme sandwiched the composer's 12 Pieces for flute and guitar op.16 between two quirky choral works dedicated to different "righteous and perfect lodges", both with a prominent role for guitar and flute. The flautist throughout was a beautifully expressive, slightly younger Mario Carbotta.
As it happens, masonic music offers another connection between Devienne and Viotti - and Fürstenau too, for that matter: like Mozart, famously, they were Freemasons. Devienne and Viotti likely even performed together, whilst Anton Fürstenau is known to have given a public performance of Devienne's arrangement of Viotti's Concerto in G.
For Classico, Bent Larsen completes a trio of terrific flute soloists,
ably aided - albeit in none-too-demanding territory - by guitarist Jan
Sommer, and from time to time by violist Lars Grunth, bassoonist Signe
Haugland and second flute Siro Cavalet. The Fürstenaus' chamber
works are by no means trailblazing - it is fair to say that Caspar for
one clearly found a simple but effective recipe and often stuck to it.
Like the 12 Pieces, however, both Caspar's and Anton's pieces are eminently
likeable for their mellifluous modesty. The disc is well recorded and
still available over the internet at very attractive prices - well worth
the small investment. The only disappointment is the inexplicable omission
of the final two serenades from Anton's op.18, the finest work in the
programme along with Caspar's closing Trio.
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