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Mozart: The Works for Flute
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, David Zinman, Colin Davis
Mozart: The Works for Flute
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #2


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CD Reviews

An Evening's Flute Music
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 09/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I gave this two-volume CD of Mozart's flute music as a birthday present to my ladyfriend. We listened to portions of it together, and I became so taken with the music that I borrowed the CD back to hear in detail. I spent a relaxed evening listening to this compilation in its entirety.

Mozart claimed to dislike the flute and, for that matter, the harp as well which also plays a prominent role in this compilation. But in spite of that, he produced music for the flute in a variety of genres all of which is delightful and much of which is masterful. This release on Philips's "duo" series presents an excellent opportunity for an overview of Mozart's works for flute, well played. It also offers a rare opportunity to hear a variety of performers on the flute and other instruments and orchestras.

I want to start with the Sinfonia concertante in E flat, K. 297b. This is a large-scale ambitious early work performed here on flute, oboe, horn, and bassoon with the academy of St Martin in the Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. Aurele Nicolet plays the flute and the other soloists include the renowned bassoonist, Klaus Thunemann. This is a virtuoso work in which each of the four wind soloists are given opportunites to display their skills against a brilliant, expansive orchestra. The final movement consists of a lengthy set of ten variations in which the soloists perform in a variety of combinations. This is less a work for solo flute than a work for showing the exuberance and skill Mozart invariably displayed in music for the wind band.

Shortly after the Sinfonia concertante, Mozart composed his famous Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299. The performance on this CD features the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis with Hubert Barwahser on the flute and Osian Ellis playing the harp. Mozart wrote this concerto for two talented amateurs rather than for virtuosos. It is salon, aristocratic music par excellance, gallant and graceful throughout. The flute tends to predominate in the solo writing, with the harp frequently accompaning or offering commentary on the flute part. The first movement has a lightness and a swing that is difficult to resist. The slow movement has a slow serene theme in which the flute and harp alternate with orchestral passages. The finale is a lively writing full of solo passages for the two instruments. The flute and harp concerto is a special, if light, work and remains my favorite of the works on this CD.

Mozart composed two flute concertos, K. 313 and 314, and both are included on this CD performed by Aurele Nicolet on flute with the Royal Concergebouw Orchestra conducted by David Zinman. The K. 314 concerto in D is the earlier of the two and is a reworking of a concerto Mozart originally wrote for the oboe. It is for the most part a bubbly, lively work in which the soloist is always predominant.

The flute concerto K. 313 in G is a considerably more ambitious work with an opening "maestoso" movement of a lengthy and elevated character. The vigorous, march-like orchestral passages are contrasted with a great deal of filigree and grace in the flute. The slow movement of this work has been widely praised and consists of a flowing, idiosyncratic theme in the flute, full of ornamentation and with many twists and turns in the melodic line. The rondo finale is light and bubbly in contrast to the character of the opening two movements.

Mozart wrote what appears to be an alternative slow movement in a pastoral character for the K. 313 concerto, the andante in C K. 315, also performed here. I was surprised with how little of Mozart's flute music is pastoral beyond the andante. (How easy it is to think of the flute as played by shepherds). Most of it is highly urbane and sophisticated, as is Mozart's music on the whole.

The final works on this CD are a series of four flute quartets performed by William Bennett, flute, together with the Grumiaux Trio. Two of these works are short, consisting of two brief movements each, while one of the remaining quartets, K. 298 was uncharitably and uncharacteristically described by Alfred Einstein as a "parody".

The remaining quartet, K. 285 in D major, pleases the most fastidious listeners. There is close interplay throughout this quartet between the solo flute and the string trio. The quartet opens with a lively theme in the flute over brushing strings followed by a close exchange of parts between the flute and violin. There is a brief section in the minor key and a surprising, brief coda. The second movement seems to me almost a sicilienne as the flute sings a long, plaintive melody over plucked strings. The work comes to a sprightly close with a rondo finale with the flute in the lead.

This CD will please lovers of the flute, such as my ladyfriend, and, of course, lovers of Mozart. I am sorry to have to give the CD back.

Robin Friedman"
Flute music for flute players
S. Greer | Tallahassee, FL | 02/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I've heard a good number of recordings of the G Major and D Major Concertos in my time, and I say Aurele Nicolet's stands high among them. His Mozart is gentlemanly but exciting - evidently a difficult mixture to perfect, as I've heard several otherwise great flutists fall prey to it (Schultz/VPO being a surprising victim). These are truly more "Mozartian" reading than the (wonderful) Galway and Rampal versions. I can only compare them in spirit to the Krips Don Giovanni: they convey the air of Vienna. But the C Major Flute/Harp Concerto falls short. I regret to say that the harpist is not the best I've heard and is underbalanced to boot. Also Nicolet sounds like he's competing with the harp on the flute long notes when the harp carries the melody, though this might be another engineering oversight. Overall for disc 1: great D Major and G Major (Zinman and Concertgebow are fantastic, by the way); sub-par Flute/Harp. But hey, there are lots of other great Flute/Harps out there at cheap prices (Zuckerman, Rampal, et al.).

Disc 2 is by far my favorite of the two. It contains all the flute quartets - played by William Bennett and the Grumiaux trio. I insist that William Bennett is the most thrilling Mozart player out there. He SINGS Mozart - merely a great approach in most cases, but especially suited to the music of transcendant opera composers. Some claim that Bennett's vibrato is too intense and "romantic" for Mozart, but that just isn't true. Listen to how the phrases connect. Bennett tells a passionate and logical story through this music without overstepping (which is a skill all too rare in Mozart instrumentalists). I urge all you flute players reading this - along with all you people who love beauty - to listen well to these quartets. (Also try to find Bennett's readings of the Concertos if you can. They are, if possible, even better.)

The filler pieces on both discs; i.e., the Andante, the Sinfonia Concertante; are no-brainers. You couldn't torture bad music out of Nicolet, Holliger, or Marriner - let alone the three of them together.

Here you have it: quality and quantity (each CD is almost 80 minutes). That single Flute/Harp blemish is easy to overlook and is still enjoyable. Get this set as fast as you can."
Mozart's delightful flute
Alan Lekan | Boulder, CO | 06/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ever since hearing the virtuostic wind players in the legendary Mannheim orchestra, Mozart was fascinated with potential of the alluring sonorities of wind instruments - particularly the clarinet. From there he developed an extraordinary gift for encorporating their unusually expressive tonal qualities into the larger scheme of the orchestra and left us with masterpieces such as his clarinet concerto & quintet and the galante wind serendades - let alone all the magnificant orchestral scoring for winds in the symphonies and concertos. However, while Mozart adored the alluring sound of the clarinet especially, he allegedly detested the flute and the limitations he faced in writing for its quiet and gentle voice. But, for a composer who did not like the flute (and also like a true professional), he sure wrote some magnificant music for it in both the concertos and quartets featured in this two-CD collection.

These earlier works for flute here (K. 285-315) were from a commission while he stayed in Mannheim and are full of delightful, joyful lyricism and rich tonal colorations (eg: quartet in D). His scoring for each reveals how 'in-tune' he was to the tonal qualities of each instrument and how to blend them harmoniously without one overwhelming another. Interestingly enough as well, the two flute concertos are apparently the only concertos written for the flute by one of the universally-recognized great composers. The Concerto in D (K.314) is a "recycled" work from an earlier concerto for oboe (K.271) leaving only one original flute concerto.

Even more subtle than Mozart's flute concertos is the one-and-only concerto for harp and flute (K.299) that Mozart wrote in Paris most likely to satisfy the Parisian cravings for aristrocratic "salon music" with its lithe and delicate qualities. (I believe it to be Mozart's only work for harp). The emotional core of this work is certainly the equisite slow movement which showcases yet again Mozart's glorious gift of moving, lyrical composition. Another highlight in this set is the ever-so-beautiful Sinfonia Concertante K.297 - a truly quintessintial Mozart composition brimming with characteristically simple yet penetrating melodic flow from a tonally-rich wind and string orchestra. It is one of my favorite Mozart pieces of all his 626 works and one of the reasons people have adored Mozart's music through the ages.

All of these wonderful works are played by the various ensembles featured on this 2-CD set with just the right "galante spirit" that defines Mozart. Perhaps there are recordings that are more of this or that, but I found the performances here to be glorious in their scope, musicianship and tonality. The Philips sound engineering is quite vivid too with nothing to fault really. Of particular note are the quartets which feature legendary Belgian violinist, Arthur Grumiaux, whose Mozart is among the finest of all times. William Bennett too is quite renouned for his sensitive, alluring flute playing. If you are comparing recordings, definately check out Sharon Bezaly's fine performances on the BIS label which contain some superb, haughtingly beautiful candenzas albeit in a more resonant ambiance than this Philips recording.

This is a wonderful CD to listen to when you want a more gentle tone, graceful tempo and no big changes in dynamics (soft to loud). Dare we say it makes great background music? Why not, as Mozart wrote much music to be used for such puposes. It makes good book reading music with its uplifting and gentle tones and the wonderful sound quality of the recording. These unique works fill a nice niche in one's Mozart collection that is pure, uncomplicated delight. Last tip: if you like the flute music on this CD, you might equally enjoy the several flute concertos by C.P.E. Bach - a contemporary of Mozart whose composing often sounds like Mozart himself. Try the budget 2-CD sets by Gallois (Naxos) or the compilation of C.P.E. Bach's flute music on Philips DUO."