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Haydn, Kuhlau, Weber: Three Trios for Flute, Piano and Cello

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    Description

    When budding musicians begin studying music theory, they are told that sound has three main characteristics, i.e. height/pitch, intensity, and duration. Timbre is also mentioned, but is also somewhat quickly forgotten. Of these three parameters, in fact, it seems the most expendable. A tune can be transposed and sound “almost” the same, provided that the intervals are respected; but this impression of “almost” identity is quickly lost if the transposition involves a change in register, for example exceeding one octave. The same tune, played fortissimo or pianissimo sounds completely different. Durations also can be respected proportionally, without thereby destroying the line of a tune too much, but even there, a pronounced inflation or deflation of the musical time effectively renders the music unrecognizable or unintelligible.
    Seemingly, a change in timbre affects the music least, unless it is between entirely incongruent instruments; but even so, a melody may remain recognizable and identifiable if played on, say, the piccolo or the double bass.
    Still, every instrument has its own idiosyncrasies. It has registers in which it sounds better and worse, in which it is more or less powerful, more or less brilliant, more or less difficult to play. There are things a particular instrument simply cannot do, and others which may seem feasible, but then, when played, either are extremely uncomfortable, or extremely odd-sounding, or extremely complex. (This does not mean, of course, renouncing technical challenges: what is unplayable for one generation, may become almost standard practice for the next). There are specific passages and musical gestures which are typical for a particular instrument or group of instruments, and which practically identify the instrument playing it even just on paper. One cannot play pizzicato on a wind instrument, or use the resonance of the piano pedal on a violin (even though a violin playing with a piano may benefit from the latter’s pedal resonance).
    To write a chamber music piece, therefore, implies knowing perfectly the pluses and minuses of every instrument, and to manage them in order for them to become resources rather than handicaps. A skilled composer will derive from the strength and weaknesses of the instruments he or she is employing some musical ideas, which would otherwise remain only a potential.
    This, however, can happen within limits. A chamber music piece entirely built on what is specific of the instruments playing it, on their idiosyncrasies and uniqueness, is hardly likely to be a consistent piece of music. There are examples, in contemporary music, of works structured on sound effects, where in fact the prompting comes almost exclusively from the specificity of each instrument. But these are recent examples, which have virtually no precedents in the history of earlier chamber music. The alchemic process of creating the perfect piece of chamber music must therefore take into consideration the pros and cons of every instrument, what they can and cannot do, and build the result on the common denominator of what they share, without flattening their diversity and renouncing their individual voices.
    This is particularly complex in the case of three instruments, all of which belong to different families, and which have different registers, sounds, techniques. This happens with the trio for piano, cello and flute, and the difficulty for the players is further increased when playing on modern instruments, since what was balanced in the eyes and ears of a composer working with a fortepiano, a gut-stringed cello and a transverse flute becomes much more complex when playing on a modern grand, a modern cello, and a modern metal flute.
    Both the cello and the flute have a favoured range, though both (but especially the cello) have a considerable extension. However, one could roughly say that the cello’s range corresponds to that normally covered by the piano’s left hand, and the flute’s range to that played by the right. The piano, therefore, unites the ranges of the other two instruments; thanks to the pianist’s two hands, it is as if the piano counted as two instruments – building up a quartet – rather than just as a third. However, the flute cannot normally play more than one note at a time, different from the piano and, partially, from the cello; both the cello and the flute are limited by their needs regarding phrasing (the need to breathe for the flutist and to change bow for the cello), but, at the same time, they can sustain a note’s sound in a fashion which is simply impossible on the piano, and was even more dramatically felt on the fortepiano.
    The three works recorded in this Da Vinci Classics album demonstrate the composers’ struggle to find this perfect alchemy, and their eventual success in finding it.
    Franz Joseph Haydn is one of the greatest composers of chamber music in the eighteenth century and in the entire history of the Western musical literature, but his most important chamber music master pieces are found in the genre of the string quartet, which he is credited with the merit of practically creating. He also wrote several piano trios, among others, which in most cases are conceived for a trio with violin and cello, besides the keyboard. Others were written for flute, cello and piano, but the degree of compulsoriness attached to their instrumentation is varied. Haydn’s flute trios do certainly consider the flute’s presence as an identification mark, especially since they were prepared with a clear “marketing” strategy in mind. The English nobility, in fact, was the prey of a flute craze; indeed, the flute is perhaps the instrument with the best “quality/price” ratio– meaning, by “quality”, the musical result one can reach for a comparatively low “price”, i.e. musical effort and application. The flute allowed the English aristocracy to play rather complex works without having to master a professional’s technical skills. Making music together, furthermore, was one of the most pleasant activities a nobleman could do, and the shared pleasure of music-making nourished a market which was constantly on the look for new music.
    Haydn wrote three Flute Trios, indicated as Hob. XV: 15-17, of which the one recorded here, i.e. no. 16, is the second, though it was indicated as the first in an advertisement published on the Morning Herald on February 22nd, 1792. Cleverly, though perhaps not entirely innocently, Haydn had these works published almost simultaneously in England, by John Bland, and in Vienna, by his reference publisher Artaria. Bland was partly responsible for the creation of these Trios: having visited Haydn at his place in 1789, he had encouraged the composer to undertake the task of writing for the flute, considering how successful this genre was at the time in his country. Curiously, Bland appended an advertisement against musical piracy to his published edition of the trios, even though, rigorously, he was responsible for an act of “copyright infringement” (as we would say now) against the rights of his competitor Artaria.
    These works were also connected with Haydn’s journeys to London, following his moving to Vienna in 1790/1, and the dismantlement of the Esterházy orchestra for which he had worked over an extensive period of time.
    With his extreme contrapuntal skills and the ability he had acquired in handling the four parts of the String Quartet, Haydn was able to manage a consistent handling of the four (and more) parts of the Piano trio with flute. However, the tradition already existing in this field discouraged too independent a use of the three instruments. The flute was frequently in dialogue with the piano’s right hand, while the cello often doubled, in a fashion similar to continuo writing, the part of the left hand. Haydn increased their independency, but was perhaps slightly less audacious in this field than in others. Indeed, the very intended destination of these trios (i.e. a readership of skilled amateurs) discouraged too daring a use of innovations.
    A more exciting treatment of the parts is found in Friedrich Kuhlau’s Grand Trio op. 119, but the reason is that this work had been originally conceived for two flutes and piano. The two wind instruments, therefore, were treated as equals, and had similarly demanding parts. When transferring the second flute’s part to the bass, in order for it to be played by the cello (or even by the bassoon), the comparative virtuosity and independency of the original part was maintained. Here, the cello is really a peer of the other instruments; moreover, Kuhlau’s extensive writing for the flute (he composed many beautiful solo pieces for this instrument) encouraged him to demand very much from the player, and thus, in consequence, to create beautiful and challenging pieces. This Trio is one of Kuhlau’s last works, composed in 1831, just one year before his death. It is therefore suffused with Romantic tinges, in spite of a composition style which is rather light and transparent.
    It was preceded by more than ten years by a Trio which, in fact, sounds perhaps even more modern. Composed by Carl Maria von Weber, who was born in the same year as Kuhlau, it is a sparkling and brilliant piece, perhaps its composer’s masterpiece in the field of chamber music. It is loaded with quotations and references: on the one hand, its third movement, subtitled Shepherd’s Lament, employs as its foundation a Lied by Wilhelm Ehler, composed for voice and guitar on lyrics by Johann von Goethe, which had been set to music by many other composers. On the other hand, the most evident references are those to Weber’s own Freischütz, his undisputed masterpiece, which was in the making when this Trio was written. Among such references, we might mention the motif of the devil’s trill, found in Caspar’s drinking song and here in the Trio’s finale, or a quote from the chorus Laßt lustig die Hörner ercschallen, again in the Finale.
    Here the three instruments are treated fully as equals, and, moreover, different from the other pieces recorded here no alternative version for other ensembles has been created or authorized by the composer. This is quintessentially a Trio for flute, cello and piano, and we can appreciate the level of refinement with which Weber treated each instrument as well as the combination of the three. Together, these three trios are among the most beautiful in the literature for this relatively rare instrumental combination, and they allow us to explore, together with their composers, the unheard-of possibilities of this ensemble and of this genre.
    Chiara Bertoglio © 2023

    Artist(s)

    Flutist Anja Kreuzer, was born in Switzerland. Since 2015 she has played as associate Principal Flute in the Schleswig Holstein Symphony Orchestra in Germany. Anja made her debut as a soloist with the Silesian Philharmonic under the direction of P. Gajewski in 2018, performing the Mozart Flute concerto in G major. She also performed the Reinecke Flute Concerto with the Lugansk Symphony Orchestra, at the Crimean International Music Festival. During the season 2014/15 she played as Principal Flute in the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra in Sweden and later as a guest in different orchestras such as the Musikkollegium Winterthur, the Opera Kaiserslautern, the Southwest Chamber Orchestra Pforzheim, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Västeras Sinfonietta and the South Denmark Philharmonic. Anja made an internship in the Radio-Symphony Orchestra SWR in Stuttgart, as well as in the Opera Kaiserslautern, in Germany. After completing her Bachelor at the Zurich University of Arts, where she studied with Matthias Ziegler and had additional lessons Sabine Poyé Morel, she continued to study and obtained a Master of Arts at the Royal Academy of Music in London in the class of William Bennett. She also received a Diploma in Orchestra Performance at the University of Music in Saarbrücken, in the class of Gaby Pas- van Riet. She is the laureate of various competitions, such as the Migros Kulturprozent, Nicati de Luze, Walter Gieseking and the International Flute Competition in Oberstdorf. In 2017 she won the First Prize at the International F. Kuhlau Flute Competition.

    Pianist Joanna Zathey was born into a musical family in Wrocław. She studied at the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznań and completed her postgraduate studies in the chamber music class of D. Schwarzberg at the Accademia di Musica in Pinerolo (Italy). In 2015, she obtained a Doctor of Musical Arts. Since 2015, she has been collaborating as a pianist with the Sommerakademie in Schloss Heiligenberg and the Summer Academy for Young Artists in Marktoberdorf in Germany and was invited as a piano coach during the Møn Summer Festival in Denmark.
    Joanna has performed in many cities, including the Polish Institutes of Paris and Vienna, in Prague and in the Wiener Konzerthaus. Since 2011, she has performed alongside the violinist Jaroslaw Nadrzycki at the Ohrid Summer Festival in Macedonia, the NOSPR in Katovice, the Russian Youth Festival in Moscow, the Music Festival in Izmir and recorded the sonatas for violin and piano by J. Brahms for Orphée Classics in 2018. She was an official competition pianist at the 13th H. Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznań, the 1st Violin Competition Karol Szymanowski in memoriam in Toruń, the S. Serwaczyński Young Violinists Competition in Lublin and the K. Lipiński and H. Wieniawski Violin Competition in Lublin.
    Currently, she works as a collaborative pianist in the String Department of the I. J. Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznań and at the J. Kaliszewska Secondary School of Music in Poznań.

    Italian cellist Martin Pratissoli started his musical education at the Conservatory in Milan under the guidance of M. Bernardin. After obtaining his Diploma with the highest grade, he continued his studies in Imola, Lucerne, and Detmold with G. Gnocchi, E. Dindo, and C. Poltera. He obtained a Master of Arts in Music Performance and a second Masters in Orchestra Performance. He was invited to perform at important festivals such as the Lucerne Festival (where he played the solo part of the composition Am Rande des Abgrunds by S. Gubaidulina), the Moritzburg Festival in Dresden, The Cello Festival A. Piatti in Bergamo, the Aurora Chamber Music Festival in Sweden, the Mahler Academy, the A. Prokopp Academy of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra during the Salzburg Festival and the Aspen Music Festival in the USA. As a soloist, he has performed both concertos by J. Haydn and the concerto by G. Tartini. Martin played as a substitute with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and also regularly with the Teatro alla Scala Orchestra of Milan under the guidance of conductors such as R. Muti, R. Chailly, Z. Mehta, S. Bychkov and D. Gatti. He has worked in different orchestras and theatres, such as the State Opera in Hanover, the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gstaad Festival Orchestra and is a permanent member of the South Denmark Philharmonic, since August 2019.

    Composer(s)

    (b Eutin, ?19 Nov 1786; d London, 5 June 1826). Composer, conductor, pianist and critic, son of Franz Anton Weber. A prototypical 19th-century musician-critic, he sought through his works, words and efforts as performer and conductor to promote art and shape emerging middle-class audiences to its appreciation. His contributions to song, choral music and piano music were highly esteemed by his contemporaries, his opera overtures influenced the development of the concert overture and symphonic poem, and his explorations of novel timbres and orchestrations enriched the palette of musical sonorities. With the overwhelming success of his opera Der Freischütz in 1821 he became the leading exponent of German opera in the 1820s and an international celebrity. A seminal figure of the 19th century, he influenced composers as diverse as Marschner, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Meyerbeer, Berlioz and Liszt.

    Franz Joseph Haydn (b Rohrau, Lower Austria, 31 March 1732; d Vienna, 31 May 1809). Austrian composer, brother of Michael Haydn. Neither he nor his contemporaries used the name Franz, and there is no reason to do so today. He began his career in the traditional patronage system of the late Austrian Baroque, and ended as a ‘free’ artist within the burgeoning Romanticism of the early 19th century. Famous as early as the mid-1760s, by the 1780s he had become the most celebrated composer of his time, and from the 1790s until his death was a culture-hero throughout Europe. Since the early 19th century he has been venerated as the first of the three ‘Viennese Classics’ (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven). He excelled in every musical genre; during the first half of his career his vocal works were as famous as his instrumental ones, although after his death the reception of his music focussed on the latter (except for The Creation). He is familiarly known as the ‘father of the symphony’ and could with greater justice be thus regarded for the string quartet; no other composer approaches his combination of productivity, quality and historical importance in these genres. In the 20th century he was understood primarily as an ‘absolute’ musician (exhibiting wit, originality of form, motivic saturation and a ‘modernist’ tendency to problematize music rather than merely to compose it), but earnestness, depth of feeling and referential tendencies are equally important to his art.

    Friedrich Kuhlau (Daniel Rudolph)
    (b Uelzen, nr Hanover, 11 Sept 1786; d Copenhagen, 12 March 1832). Danish composer of German birth. Together with C.E.F. Weyse he was the foremost representative of the late Classical and early Romantic periods in Denmark.

    Kuhlau was the son of a poor military bandsman and moved with his family to Lüneburg about 1793, where in 1796 he lost his right eye in a fall in the street. After brief periods in Altona and Brunswick, the family settled in Hamburg in 1802 or 1803. Here Kuhlau received his first serious musical tuition, partly from C.F.G. Schwencke, the Stadtkantor and Musikdirektor of Hamburg and a learned scholar who had been taught by C.P.E. Bach and Kirnberger. Kuhlau gave several piano recitals from 1804, and the same year his earliest known compositions, songs and pieces for flute and piano, were published. When Hamburg was invaded by Napoleon's troops in 1810 Kuhlau fled to Copenhagen, where he gave the first of many concerts in January 1811, performing among other works his C major Piano Concerto. He began to earn his living as a piano teacher and composer, and in 1813 was appointed court chamber musician, though he received no salary for this first position until 1818. In 1814 his first stage success, the Singspiel Røverborgen (‘The Robbers’ Castle’), was given at the Kongelige Teater (the Royal Theatre). He was chorus master at the theatre in 1816–17 and had his second opera Trylleharpen (‘The Magic Harp’) produced there in 1817. He enjoyed an enormous success with his fairy tale opera Lulu (1824), and his incidental music to the play William Shakespeare (1826) was also well received. But the greatest triumph of his career was the incidental music to Heiberg's Romantic national play Elverhøj (‘The Elf Hill’), first produced in 1828. As a direct result of this Kuhlau was made a professor the same year. His other stage works were failures. He went on concert tours as a pianist in Scandinavia, especially in Sweden, and made several visits to Germany and Austria. In 1816 he conducted a successful performance of Røverborgen in Hamburg, and in 1825 met Beethoven in Vienna, exchanging impromptu canons with him. Kuhlau's last years were clouded by financial problems, illness, excessive drinking and the deaths of both of his parents, who had lived with him from 1814. As a result of a fire that swept his house in 1831 he suffered a chest ailment from which he never recovered, and died the following year.