Sunday 11 October 2015

Finchcocks Schubertiade - showcasing instruments in transition

Finchcocks Schubertiade
Finchcocks Schubertiade; Elizabeth Walker, Richard Shaw; Devine Music
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Sep 23 2015
Star rating: 3.5

19th century instruments showcased in this recital of music for flute and piano

This new disc on Devine Music, recorded at Finchcocks Museum showcases one of the instruments from the museum, a Pleyel piano alongside a flute from the same period, played by Elizabeth Walker (flute) and Richard Shaw (piano) in music by Schubert and Theobald Böhm. In fact Theobald Böhm looms quite large over the disc as he wrote one of the pieces, arranged some of the others and his designs were responsible for the flute Elizabeth Walker plays.

During the 19th century both the flute and the piano were in transition, and the disc highlights the remarkable sound qualities that both brought to the music of the period. Elizabth Walker plays a Louis Lot flute from Paris (1859). The flute is based on the designs of Theobald Böhm (1794-1881) a German flautist and instrument maker. Böhm's designs introduced multiple keys to the flute which meant that the player could control 14 holes instead of 6. The design was so influential that modern flutes are all based on it. The Pleyel piano is straight strung which gives the sound a lovely clarity and the action is an English one which means it is lighter.

The results bring a lovely singing tone to the piano and a warm transparency to the flute, making a great combination in the music.
The first item on the programme is Elizabeth Walker's arrangement of Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata. The sonata was written for a six-stringed cello, which quickly fell out of use, leading to the sonata being produced in number of arrangements. Walker's transcription for flute showcases her fine technique in the passagework and the sheer beauty of tone in the Adagio, but the problem for me is that the arpeggione was a tenor instrument and the passage-work takes on a great different sound and texture, lighter and less strenuous.

A similar transfiguration comes over the Schubert songs, in transcriptions by Theobald Böhm and Leopold Jansa, as the melodies are subject to discreet elaboration and variation. The arrangements are very effective though it is rather startling to find songs from Schwanengesang and Winterreise treated in such a manner though of course Liszt did similar.

The variation form, in fact, flows through much of the disc as the two other works are Schubert's own variations on Trockne Blumen and Theobald Böhm's Variations sur Une Valse de Schubert Op. 21. Delightful pieces but I have to confess that a little goes a long way and there could have been a little more grit in the recital.

But it does showcase fine technique of Walker and Shaw in some beautiful fluid performances, and the beauties of the instruments, and their remarkable tone qualities.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828), arr. Elizabeth Walker - Arpeggione Sonata D821
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), arr. Theobald Böhm - Stanchen
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), arr. Theobald Böhm - Das Fischermadchen
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) - Trockne Blumen, Introduction and Variations Op.160 D.802
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), arr. Leopold Jansa  - Gute Nacht
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), arr. Leopold Jansa  - Der Lindenbaum
Theobald Böhm (1794-1881) - Variations sur Un Valse de Schubert Op.21
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), arr. Leopold Jansa  - Am Meer
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), arr. Leopold Jansa  - Die Taubenpost
Eliizabeth Walker (flute)
Richard Shaw (piano)
Recorded at Finchcocks 2014
Available direct from Divine Music.

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