In Denmark, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was a decline in musical activity. Certainly, the social and economic changes of the end of the previous century had given rise to new sectors (domestic music for amateurs, recitals in the salons of the rich bourgeoisie and aristocracy, public concerts with Beethoven’s symphonies). However, the Napoleonic wars and the ensuing State bankruptcy in 1813 dealt a severe blow to the progress of the concert world; only towards the middle of the century was there a revival of both symphonic music (which developed elements of nationalism) and chamber music, now practiced in concert halls. Furthermore, cantatas and secular oratorios became a feature of Danish musical life, and romanticism manifested itself in compositions similar to the Lieder from other parts of Europe. Music education expanded during the century: singing and music lessons became compulsory subjects in schools after 1814; the Copenhagen Conservatory (later Kongelige Danske Musikkonservatorium) opened in 1867 and musicology established itself as an academic discipline at the University. The Musikforening, founded in the capital in 1836, became an important part of Danish concert life for almost a century and grew mainly under the direction of Niels Gade (1850-1890), establishing itself as the arbiter of contemporary taste.
From an aesthetic point of view, chamber music came to life in particular from the influences of the classical Viennese style and over time merged with the national romantic vision that permeated all musical genres, including opera. In the 1930s and 1940s, music was introduced into the public debate on the importance of culture for the realization of new political ideas and contributed enormously to the quest for a national identity. This current was favored by the strong tension between Denmark and the neighboring German states, fomented by the aspiration to Nordic unity and by the emergence of a liberal political movement which in 1849 created a free constitution and obtained the abolition of the absolute monarchy without a bloody revolution. Nationalism as an ideology was then combined with the romantic aesthetic in which music was the privileged language for the manifestation of feelings, capable of reflecting a poetic idea.
In this context worked Niels Peter Jensen (Copenhagen 1802 – 1846), a pupil of Friedrich Kulhau, who had moved to Copenhagen from Hamburg in 1810, due to the invasion of Napoleonic troops and in 1813 had been appointed court chamber musician. Particularly appreciated as a piano virtuoso and as a teacher, he established himself in the cultural world of the city, giving life to a real school. Jensen studied organ with him and from 1828 became the appointed organist of St. Peter’s Church in Copenhagen. However, he was also active as a teacher and as a flute virtuoso. In May of the same year, he made his debut as a composer together with Hartmann and Fröhlich, immediately arousing the interest of critics. His oeuvre consists mainly of the chamber music and the flute is the protagonist, among others, of several cycles of varied arias that confirm the composer’s interest in and careful study of European music. The published collections, usually containing a couple of pieces, draw on the most heterogeneous repertoires – folkloric (from Germany to Spain) or by established composers – as in the case of romances or Lieder or opera arias.
The cavatina from Rossini’s Tancredi (“Di tanti palpiti”) is contained in the first volume, fourth book, of the Six thèmes variés pour la flûte. “Der Treue Tod” from La sentinelle by Theodor Körner, a very popular aria that attracted the attention of other musicians including Mauro Giuliani – who worked in Vienna in the first fifteen years of the nineteenth century – is instead included in the second volume, fifth book, also published by Cranz in Hamburg. Both pieces, like the remainder of the collections, are conceived as themes with variations; they mirror the dissemination of vocal scores and the composer’s desire to rework them and adapt them to his own catalogue, showcasing his skills. The Cavatina consists of five variations, the Aria of eight; in both cases the concept progresses gradually from the simplest variation to the most complex artifices. The flute is thus able to highlight both its possibilities of range and the variety of articulations. Within some variations there is also a short cadence, a further display of technical mastery.
The figure of Karl Keller (Dessau 1784-Schaffausen 1855) is instead found within the context of the German world and stands out as a virtuoso and a composer in line with the taste of his time. His name repeatedly appears on the columns of period journals that give an account of his tours for at least twenty years between 1819 and 1839, always presenting him as a virtuoso of the royal chapel of the court of Württemberg. From Berlin, to Leipzig, to Dresden, to Pest, to Cassel, Keller is found as a soloist in academies together with other artists, but his participations in ensembles or orchestras are also documented.
His excellence as a flute virtuoso is highlighted, also noting the use of instruments that are not easy to handle from a mechanical point of view. His tone and color are exalted in the Adagios, which penetrate the soul, his fluency in the most difficult passages combined with a clear and tasteful phrasing, while, as a composer, he is acknowledged to possess skill in melody writing, with always pleasant, original, and genuine tunes, but his magniloquent style of instrumentation is noted. As a soloist, Keller usually performed compositions written by him (concertos, themes with variations, divertimenti) accompanied by the piano or guitar; only occasionally did he play works by other musicians (for example an Allegro by Berbiguier).
The Six divertissements pour une flûte published by Peters in Leipzig are dedicated aux amateurs, but these should be rather proficient amateurs, eager to try their hand at free forms, of a very sentimental character. Each piece corresponds to a very specific form: the first is a Fantasia in F major opening with an Adagio introducing the ensuing Allegro agitato in D minor; the second is a Romanze in E minor, divided into four short sections, in which the cantabile and pathetic element prevails; the third is a Potpourri composed, as was customary, by a first moment (Allegro, in C major), concluded by a cadenza and followed by an Allegretto in E major surrounded by two variations; a Moderato, that almost acts as a link with the following Allegro alla Polacca, completes a composition which encompasses complex playing situations. The fourth divertimento is a Rondeau hongrois introduced by a Poco adagio in G minor concluded by a cadenza and followed by an Allegretto in G major. The fifth consists only of a tripartite Adagio in E flat major, conceived as an aria with da capo with a varied reprise which becomes progressively more virtuosic. The sixth, in G major, opens again with an Introduction in Adagio; it continues with a theme in Allegretto with four variations, the third of which is labelled “con espressione”, whilst the fourth is an Allegro, which becomes Più mosso.
The performance indications found throughout each of the pieces by the two composers – such as morendo, con fuoco, calando, ritardando, lentando, ardito, sous plain – the frequent appoggiaturas, the careful choice of shades: all this signifies a pathetic style aiming at moving the souls of the listeners and to arouse emotions even without resorting to words. This therefore puts the two composers in line with contemporaneous European stylistic currents.
Mariateresa Dellaborra © 2021
Elena Cecconi has captivated audiences in concert halls and Festivals in Italy, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Japan, Hong Kong-China, Thailand, USA and Russia. As soloist she has performed with several Orchestras including the Budapest Chamber Orchestra, UCS and OSPA Brazil Orchestras, Scarlatti of Napoli and Cremona Soloists, Albanian Radio Television, Catania and Sicilian Symphony Orchestras. She recorded 5 stars international CD for Edipan, Ricordi-Stradivarius, Bayer Records, Talent, Tactus, Brilliant, La Bottega Discantica, Urania records. She was Principal Solo Flute of the Sicilian Symphony Orchestra until 1994 and also performed as Principal Solo Flute in the Orchestras of Venice, Parma , Vicenza, Piacenza, Alessandria. Elena is Flute Professor at the Music Academy G.Nicolini of Piacenza, and she also conducts and performs with The Joyful Flute Ensemble, founded by her. She teaches Masterclasses in Music Academies in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Weimar and Osnabrück -Germany, Krakov- Poland, Alicante, Valencia, La Coruña, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Vigo - Spain, Libon, Aveiro-Portugal and in USA: Florida, Louisiana, Illinois Universities, and NFA and FFA flute Convention; in Porto Alegre and Vale Veneto-Brazil and Maimonodes University in Buenos Aires-Argentina, at the International Flute Festival in San José- Costa Rica and Abraf 2014 , Porto Alegre 2016 flute convention- Brazil; Mendoza world flute. Convention 2017- Argentina. She was Guest Artist at International Wind Festival 2019 in Novara. She is Guest Artist at Gazzelloni Festival in Roccasecca and International Wind Instruments Festival in Corfù-Greece, with recitals and Masterclass. Elena performs with several chamber groups as Ensemble La Variazione, Il Cuore che pensa, the Soulsight duo and Les Cordes Soufflantes. She specialized at the Hochschule für Musik of Vienna with W. Schulz after graduating in Italy at Conservatorio of Frosinone with the highest marks. Elena performs in the project Donatori di Musica and she is Dama Magistrale of Knights of Malta. Elena was in the Jury at the Mozart International Competition - Berlin 2018 and at Rospigliosi International Competition 2019. Recently her book of poems " Inquietudini fra Musica e Silenzio" has been published by Aracne publisher. More poems by Elena has been published in Poems Anthologies by several publisher. Next poems publishing: “Arabeschi e Geometrie” by De Ferrari- Genova, including a solo flute live CD; “Ironie della sorte, Tempo e Destini” by Albatros.
Elena plays a Haynes gold flute 14 K which belonged to the famous Italian flutist Severino Gazzelloni.