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Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)
Piano Concerto No.1 in C minor (1830) [13.58]
Piano Concerto No.2 in A minor (1831) [17.56]
Jubel Overture (1857) [8.19]
Incidental Music to Wilhelm von Oranien in Whitehall (1861) [21.03]
Carl Petersson (piano), Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra/Wiesheu
rec. Czech Radio, Pilsen, Czech Republic, 27-30 August 2007
STERLING CDS1077-2 [61.35]

Flotow is now famous for one thing, his opera Martha, which was premiered in 1847. It held the stage right through into the 20th century but has more recently faded from popularity, joining the other 30 or so operas he penned, not to mention many works in other genres. These performances of both piano concertos are splendidly crisp with an enthusiastic orchestral accompaniment from one of the Czech Republic’s ‘other’ orchestras. The pianist is a very skilled musician and though lacking comparisons one cannot imagine anyone doing a better job with these surprisingly unknown pieces. Why are they not performed regularly? For me they are as much fun to hear as the Liszt and Chopin concertos but I imagine aficionados of these much better known composers may balk at the comparison. The Jubel Overture, written in 1857 to celebrate the re-opening of Schwerin Castle where Flotow served as musical Intendant, is another entertaining piece, full of pomp and splendour. Finally there are all five movements of the Incidental Music to a five act play by Putlitz about the man who became William III of England. The second interlude, that for Act 3, is striking for having ‘Rule Britannia’ as its main theme, which also returns in the Act 5 Interlude. Once again Flotow demonstrates his gifts for mixing melody and drama and leaves me perplexed that such music has sunk into utter obscurity.

There is a much needed essay in the booklet about Flotow and his music, though the French essay is greatly shortened compared to the German and English versions. There is a problem with the recording which, though clean and clear, has its channels reversed so that the violins come from the right and the cellos and basses from the left. Most modern equipment, mine included, cannot correct for this so one either tolerates it, reverses amplifier connections, or doesn’t buy the disk. Try to avoid the final choice because this really is a most enjoyable hour’s worth.

Dave Billinge

Previous review: Rob Barnett



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