The first half of the
18th Century was undoubtedly
the golden age of the flute, or be more
precise the wooden ‘flauto traverso’,
the kind of instrument that Maria Bania
is seen holding at the back of the liner
notes. There are many famous characters
associated with it of which Johann Joachim
Quantz (1697-1773) and his patron King
Frederick the Great of Prussia are particularly
famous due mostly to a painting made
of the King with Quantz (probably) accompanying.
C.P.E. Bach wrote for the instrument
whilst in Berlin. Handel wrote several
sets of sonatas and yards and yards
of baroque flute music can be heard
streaming from conservatoire and senior
school practice rooms often composed
by little known masters.
I suspect however that
not even specialists and flute teachers
know much if anything about Danish high
baroque flute music. Therefore Johann
Adolphe Scheibe and Morten Raehs will
probably be entirely new names to you
as they were to me. Their biographies
are given in the notes.
The music comes from
a collection of mainly flute pieces
known as the Giedde collection. The
same collection also houses works by
Telemann, Mattheson and lesser masters,
many of them Danish.
Scheibe was born in
Germany and like so many, before and
since, first studied law. By the age
of 22 he was making his living as a
professional musician in Leipzig where
he met Bach and Telemann. He criticised
Bach for being too contrapuntal in his
periodical ‘Der critische Musikus’.
By 1740 he was in Copenhagen and was
made ‘Royal Conductor’ at the Pietist
court and consequently became a leading
figure in the capital and well known
to King Christian VI. There were several
fine orchestras in Copenhagen. Often
these were staffed by leading Italian
musicians of the day.
Scheibe’s sonatas are
in four movements with little variety
of order. The main pattern is slow,
fast, slow, fast. Each sonata has much
that would please the virtuosi of the
day especially in the finales, generally
marked Presto. The slow movements
are most reliant on an ‘affected’ melody
as in the case of the third movement
of the third sonata. In addition the
elegiac quality of the opening of the
B minor sonata proves to be most moving.
This sonata continues with an Allegro
which features clever imitation
between the flute and the right hand
of the harpsichord. Unison passages
are crucial and here the tuning is perfect,
not always an easy feat with a harpsichord.
I was reminded in the middle section
of the B minor of Rameau’s ‘Pièces
de Clavecin en concert’. An ‘Affectuoso’
ensues which uses the cool sound of
the lute stop on the harpsichord. The
closing Presto is, not surprisingly,
Raehs’ sonatas are
three movement affairs and being entitled
‘Sonatas for flute and basso continuo’
seem to reflect a slightly earlier age.
The second sonata ends, unusually, with
a minuet and variations. The third sonata
ends with a very spirited Allegro. These
works are consequently shorter than
Scheibe’s but no less affecting and
certainly not un-virtuosic.
Raehs was a conservative
having been brought up in Denmark. He
travelled to England on several occasions
and enjoyed it. He met émigrés
like Bononcini, Geminiani and Handel.
Geminiani’s sonatas and concertos, many
of which are in three movements, may
well be models.
Raehs ended his days
where he had begun, by taking over from
his late father in Aarhus but ending
up in the Royal Orchestra as its leading
Maria Bania is also
a recorder player and has an especial
interest in unusual baroque repertoire;
most of her work has been in Scandinavia.
She has a rich tone capable of vibrato
and of elegance. Lars Ulrick Mortensen
has also trained in Scandinavia. He
plays with appropriate rubato and dextrous
finger-work and uses the instrument
with as much colour as possible. Unfortunately
the date and maker of the instrument
are not specified.
There is an excellent
and useful booklet essay by Jens Henrik
An enjoyable release
although possibly more for the specialist.
see also review
by Michael Cookson