The real surprise on
this enjoyable disc is the very accomplished
Flojtekoncert by the blind composer
Niels Peter Jensen. Inexplicably neglected
– the score only exists in the original
handwritten score and orchestral parts
– this elegant, beautifully sprung concerto
is a real find. One can only wonder
why ClassicO chose to give it a somewhat
subdued ‘World Premiere Recording’ banner
on the insert at the back of the CD
That cavil aside, the
Danish flautist Rune Most possesses
a lovely liquid tone that is most appealing,
even when perhaps the musical invention
flags a little. He is clearly attuned
to the demands of this music, although
given that the disc spans nearly two
centuries, the musical styles here can
best be described as conservative.
This is particularly
true of Svend Schultz’s La flûte
musicienne, written barely thirty
years ago. Schultz nailed his colours
firmly to the mast way back in 1949,
when he declared, ‘To enrich a human
being with musical joy is for me a greater
satisfaction than receiving a musical
Another surprise; Schultz’s
work is not perhaps as anodyne as its
provenance might suggest. It is in fact
an atmospheric piece that can hardly
fail to please with its mix of good
‘tunes’ and shifting moods. After the
jaunty opening Allegro comes
the Adagio, particularly beguiling
with its long, meditative flute solo
and pizzicato strings. Most, who is
also principal flautist with the Odense
Symphony, negotiates the leaping scales
and trills with ease, the flute tone
clear and confident even near the top
of its register. Yes, this may seem
an anachronism in this age of spiky
minimalism but when it’s played as deftly
as this it hardly matters.
Which reveals yet another
surprise; the Randers Kammer-orkester
– which doubles as the orchestra for
The Danish National Opera and Åarhus
Summer Opera – is the only permanent
professional chamber orchestra in Denmark.
This goes a long way towards explaining
why this band and its Scottish-born
conductor David Riddell have such a
busy concert and recording schedule.
But then this is a
disc full of surprises. I’d guess that
most listeners know Ole Schmidt as a
conductor rather than a composer. In
1974 he was the first conductor to record
all six of Carl
Nielsen’s symphonies, a set
that is still something of a benchmark
style is best described as neo-classical.
In the four movements – Rondino,
Waltz, Intermezzo, and
March – the percussion certainly
gives the music a Bartókian flavour
at times, with the flute more a part
of the drama than an adornment to it.
The Waltz is quirky, even jazzy,
the long flute solos of the Intermezzo
offering plenty of opportunities
for the soloist to shine. The concluding
March, with its opening pizzicato
strings and drum-beats, is a somewhat
spectral affair, ending almost as soon
as it has begun. Of all the items on
this disc this is probably the most
‘modern’ in idiom (it was written in
1964). That said it seems rather old-fashioned,
given the musical ferment elsewhere
in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s,
Now for the pièce
de résistance. The young
Niels Peter Jensen (b. 1802) lost his
sight early in life and was sent to
The Royal Institute for the Blind to
learn handicrafts, religion and arithmetic.
Despite this outwardly dour regime the
authorities also encouraged the young
Jensen’s musical talents.
Jensen learned to play
the flute and contemporary accounts
speak of his ability to assimilate music
with ease. He also played the flute
in public and became the first blind
person in Denmark to be appointed to
a public post, as organist of Sct. Petri
The strong, muscular
opening and thrilling coda of the Allegro
speak of confidence and a surprising
musical maturity. Jensen was probably
around 28 when he wrote the concerto.
The piece is brimming with delectable
melodies for the flute and the orchestral
writing is very accomplished indeed.
Unlike the other works on this disc
there is a genuine extended dialogue
between soloist and orchestra here –
most notably in the Larghetto.
Comparisons with Mozart concertos would
not be misplaced here; this really is
a find. And given such a persuasive
performance as this one might hope for
more performances of this unjustly neglected
All in all a most satisfying,
if not particularly challenging, collection.
The recording is full and warm, with
the flute given just the right degree
of prominence, forward yet never over
bright or brittle.
A pity then that the
CD booklet, although generally informative,
contains a number of typographical errors.
Given that the English notes have probably
been translated directly from Danish
one could forgive the odd lapse of idiom.
What is less forgivable is that Schultz’s
name appears with at least two different
spellings throughout. And the less said
about the dreary cover artwork the better.
Flute-lovers need not
hesitate, and even if this repertoire
isn’t your thing this disc is well worth
investigating for the Jensen alone.