Summer balm

July 25 2013

Mozart, K 313, Emmanuel Pahud, Haydn Ensemble Berlin, Salzburg, 2000. What is it with French and Swiss flautists?


8 Responses to “Summer balm”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    The flute went radically out of fashion in the nineteenth century, becoming a baroque or classical curiosity. Even Mozart said he disliked it, or so one is told. When classicism returned in the twentieth century, the flute returned. Did that happen in the solo at the beginning of Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894)?

    Mozart adapted his own slightly earlier oboe concerto as a flute concerto, nowadays called number 2 and K 314.

    From roughly the same time comes the Concerto for Flute and Harp, K 299.

    All 1777 or ’78. From 1778 there is also an Andante in C, an alternative second movement for K 313.

    Of the four flute quartets, the first two were written in those years, the other two later.

  2. Daniel M. Says:

    Although I think it’s true that the flute went out of style during the nineteenth century, isn’t that true of all the wind instruments? It does seem that Mozart had a soft spot for the clarinet or basset-horn.

    I’ve always wondered why most of the Romantic Era composers wrote their solo and chamber music for the string instruments and piano and distanced themselves from the winds and brass. There is some fine nineteenth century music written for winds, mostly composed by performer-composers such as Taffanel. Saint-Saëns’ woodwind works are a revelation.

    • davidderrick Says:

      Yes, but the S-S ones I remember are from the very end of his life, 1921! The 19th c was the age of strings, I suppose. Stravinsky went through a kind of rejection of strings (Symphonies of Wind Instruments, etc), and then came back to them in Apollo.

      Brahms welcomed back the clarinet in some late works – and wrote the first sonatas for it.

  3. davidderrick Says:

    The S-S trumpet septet is charming.

  4. Daniel M. Says:

    Oh yes, I forgot about the Brahms clarinet sonatas and quintet. Maybe that was part of the problem: Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven and so many others wrote for friends of theirs. But the archetypal Romantic composer (Brahms excluded) tended to be alienated and removed from his fellow musician.

    Either way, I’m very thankful that twentieth century composers decided to write for winds once again.

    • davidderrick Says:

      And trio!

      You mean a work for violin or piano could be thrown into the arena and people (the distant public, on whom they depended, and professionals, too) would take it up? Whereas for winds, it helped to write for a friend who might champion the piece?

      I suppose winds had a different place in the scheme: in military bands and music for public spaces. While the Romantic concert-hall sound and the chamber-music ethos were both dominated by strings. Strings had the prestige.

      Mahler’s orchestration was more wind-led than that of his predecessors. That was one of the revolutionary things about him.

      • Daniel M. Says:

        Yes, I do think that’s what I mean indeed.

        It’s interesting you mention military bands, I was just thinking about their place in the nineteenth century musical culture. They seem to have played a not-unimportant role in spreading nationalism, especially German and French groups. They are regarded with contempt by many taste-makers.

        Many composers heard wind bands perform their music. It is interesting to read their responses.

      • davidderrick Says:

        They also had a plain civic function. Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869, recalling 1867):

        “I do envy these Europeans the comfort they take. When the work of the day is done, they forget it. Some of them go, with wife and children, to a beer hall and sit quietly and genteelly drinking a mug or two of ale and listening to music; others walk the streets, others drive in the avenues; others assemble in the great ornamental squares in the early evening to enjoy the sight and the fragrance of flowers and to hear the military bands play – no European city being without its fine military music at eventide; and yet others of the populace sit in the open air in front of the refreshment houses and eat ices and drink mild beverages that could not harm a child. They go to bed moderately early, and sleep well. They are always quiet, always orderly, always cheerful, comfortable, and appreciative of life and its manifold blessings. One never sees a drunken man among them. The change that has come over our little [American] party is surprising. Day by day we lose some of our restlessness and absorb some of the spirit of quietude and ease that is in the tranquil atmosphere about us and in the demeanor of the people. We grow wise apace. We begin to comprehend what life is for.”

        The bands would not only play military music, but dance music hits, potpourris from operas, song arrangements.

        I think one can conclude from that passage that the quality of life in urban public spaces has declined.

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