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Francesco MOLINO (1775-1847)
Chamber Works for Flute, Violin and Guitar
Trio in G, Op.4/1, for Flute, Viola and Guitar [14:25]
Nocturne in a minor/A, Op.37, for Violin and Guitar [6:56]
Nocturne in G, Op.38, for Flute and Guitar [5:27]
Sonata in G, Op.6/2, for Guitar [9:36]
Trio in D, Op.45, for Flute, Viola and Guitar [14:38]
Grand Trio Concertant in e minor/G, Op.30, for Flute, Viola and Guitar [16:39]
Sérénade à trois (Karl Kaiser (flute); Petra Müllejans (violin and viola); Sonja Prunnbauer (guitar))
rec. Bergkirche Nimburg, 21-23 July 2008. DDD.
CPO 777 448-2 [68:02]

Experience Classicsonline
If you didn’t know who Francesco Molino was, don’t despair – neither did I, nor does The Oxford Companion to Music. In fact, this is one of only two recordings currently wholly devoted to his music. There is a ClassicO CD of his Chamber Music (CLASSCD106); otherwise his Trio, Op.45, features on a CD entitled Nineteenth Century Trios in the company of Beethoven and Kreutzer (Meridian CDE84199). The ClassicO catalogue tells me that their CD is performed on flute, viola and guitar, so the repertoire is clearly similar to that on the present CD, but I can’t discover exactly what it contains and to what extent, therefore, it overlaps with the new CPO recording.

Molino, who was born in Italy – his name means ‘windmill’ – may have travelled first to Spain then, like the better-known Ferdinando Carulli and Mauro Giuliani, finally settled abroad, in his case in Paris around 1820, where he was also known as François Molino and achieved considerable popularity as a purveyor of light classical music involving the guitar alone or in combination with the flute and/or violin/viola.

All the music here is effortlessly tuneful. One might apply to it the phrase which the play Amadeus attributes to Salieri on Mozart – it just seems to have poured out of him. The notes in the booklet compare his “genuinely witty and very amusing ideas” with Rossini and the comparison is, perhaps, even more apt than with Mozart. Though he seems never to have written vocal music, the flute and violin or viola ‘sing’ to the guitar’s accompaniment.

Nothing here is at all profound, or, it must be admitted, truly memorable. Molino is no Rossini manqué, nor would I exchange his music for that of Carulli or Giuliani, but they both have several current recordings to their names, so Molino deserves at least his two. The charming rustic painting reproduced on the CD cover captures the spirit of the music very well.

The performances leave nothing to be desired. Karl Kaiser plays a transverse flute modelled on a Grenser instrument of 1796. Surprisingly, when the rest of the details are given in English, non-linguists will be puzzled at being told that this is an instrument ‘mit 6 Klappen’. Perhaps the compilers of the booklet didn’t know the English for Klappe – literally ‘flap’, as in the colloquial Klappe zu, ‘shut your trap’, but here simply an instrumental key.

Petra Müllejans, as leader of the Capella Academica, Frankfurt – she is also the artistic director of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra – contributes to the success of the CPO recording of Vivaldi Recorder Concertos (777 304-2 – see review) and her playing here, on a Landolfi violin from 1755 and a Bohemian viola of around 1800, contributes even more to the success of the current CD. That Vivaldi recording was up against stiff competition, which is not the case here. I see from the notes that she also plays klezmer, tango and czardas music with the group Hot and Cool – quite a change for a Professor of Music and something that I’d like to hear!

The guitar may play a largely accompanying role, except in the Sonata, Op.6/2, but the instrument was central to Molino’s music and the contribution of Sonja Prunnbauer on a modern copy of an 1828 ‘romantic’ guitar is also crucial to the success of the recording.

The recorded sound is rather close, but not unduly so, and Karl Kaiser’s notes in the booklet are helpful and informative. The English translation is a little awkward in places but generally idiomatic.

Just one grumble – why, when the violin features in only one of the works here and the viola in three, does the title of the CD give the violin pre-eminence over its cousin?

I shall be returning to this recording though, I must admit, with a busy reviewing schedule, it won’t be very often. A lazy late evening in high Summer would probably be just right, as an alternative to the Debussy and Ravel String Quartets which seem so suited to that time. Perhaps some enterprising company will now offer us a recording of the guitar and violin concertos which Molino composed.

Brian Wilson
 


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