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British Flute Music in the Early 19th Century
Matthew CAMIDGE (1764-1844)
Sonata in B flat major, op.8 (c.1813) [11:24]
Thomas Attwood WALMISLEY (1814-56)
Sonatina No.1 in B flat major [9:24]
Sonatina No.2 in G major [7:17]
Edward LODER (1809-1865)
Original Theme with variations (c.1830) [10:43]
Charles Edward HORSLEY (1822-1876)
Sonata in A minor, op.11 [33:14]
John Henry MAUNDER (1858-1920)
Espagnola [4:39]
Gilberto Fornito (flute)
Christopher Howell (piano)
rec. 3 & 10 January 2015, Villa Bossi, Bodio Lomnago (Varese), Lombardy, Italy
SHEVA SH156 [76:50]

Enthusiasts of late 18th - early 19th century organ music will have come across Matthew Camidge’s Organ Concerto in G minor, as well as several smaller pieces, in various albums of old English organ music. They will also know that he was member of a familial dynasty that oversaw music at York Minister for 103 years (1756-1859). Matthew Camidge wrote many sonatas for piano with violin and cello accompaniments, church music, songs and teaching material. The Flute Sonata dates from about 1813. Camidge’s style is rooted in an earlier period. He does not seem to have been influenced by Beethoven, even if seven of that composer’s nine symphonies have been performed at this date. This music is more likely to remind the listener of J. C. Bach, with Corelli and Handel not far in the background. I enjoyed the freshness and innocence of this charming three-movement sonata.

Two short Sonatinas by Thomas Attwood Walmisley are included. The pianist, Christopher Howell, points out that the works’ titles are misleading. What is presented here are in effect “operatic scenas”. They both open with a slow introduction before exploring more rigorous formal characteristics. Each is composed in a single movement, “that combines sonata and rondo form in a manner both intuitive and highly effective”. I guess that Carl Maria von Weber is the underlying source of inspiration for these two beautiful short pieces. They demand to be better known by flautists (and oboists, for whom the “sonatinas” were originally composed).

When Edward Loder is recalled today, it is for his operas. Most recently, Retrospect Opera has announced that a recording of his Raymond and Agnes will be made during 2017. Recent years have seen a CD of his piano music, the overture The Night Dancers and several songs. In 2016 Boydell and Brewer published Musicians of Bath and Beyond: Edward Loder (1809-1865) and his Family, a symposium edited by Nicholas Temperley. Loder received his musical education from Ferdinand Ries (1784-1838) in Frankfurt. He went on to be conductor of the Princess’s Theatre in London before moving to Manchester to become the musical director of the Theatre Royal.

The Original Theme with variations, composed around 1830, was dedicated to Frederick Gye the younger. The opening theme could have been composed by Haydn. Loder conventionally makes the following four variations more and more complex but also deploys piano solo passages at the end of each variation that are not directly related to the theme. The liner notes suggest that this may be unique. The fifth variation has an operatic feel to it: the soloist “breathes” a long and thoughtful cantilena. The work concludes with a Polonaise and a “brilliant” coda. Altogether a remarkable work, it leads the listener to want to explore Loder’s six String Quartets and Flute Sonata.

The music of Chares Edward Horsley is surely ripe for rediscovery. His works list includes a symphony, a piano concerto, two concert overtures, piano music and songs. This is over and above the usual run of oratorios, so popular with Victorian composers. His credentials were good too: study with Moscheles and Mendelssohn gave him technical prowess as well as a developed imagination. This four-movement sonata, composed in 1846, longest work on this CD, runs to more than half an hour. It is a romantic piece that explores many moods and temperaments. A few musical signposts are useful: they do not suggest pastiche or parody or lack of Horsley’s imagination. The Romanza may nod to John Field’s Nocturnes, whilst the Scherzo has something of Arthur Sullivan’s lightness of touch —“Tripping Hither, Tripping Thither”. I have a theory: if the listener was told that Horsley’s Flute Sonata was a lost work by Mendelssohn, they would not stare in disbelief. Yet, because it was written by a Victorian British composer, it is condemned in many minds as worthless before a note is heard. Howell is correct when he suggests that this work ought to be the “flautist’s standard sonata from the earlier romantic age”…

Anyone of a certain age who has sung in a church or chapel choir will have performed John Henry Maunder’s Olivet to Calvary. At one time, this work was nearly as popular as John Stainer’s Crucifixion. Chelsea-born Maunder also composed a few comic operettas, church service music and part-songs. Pleasant as Espagnola may be, it seems to me that Spain has very little to do with it: there is no Spanish colouring and certainly no touch of tango or flamenco. Maunder seems to have set his topographical sights no further south than Bognor Regis. This well-written piece reminds listeners that there was more to Maunder than Olivet. No date is given for this piece, but it was probably composed in the late nineteenth century. Howell writes that this number falls outside the remit of “early” 19th century flute music, but that it was deemed a successful encore for recitals. It admirably fulfils this role here.

This is a delightful CD. The sound is clear: every note is heard as intended. Both soloists, Gilberto Fornito (flute) and Christopher Howell (piano) approach these pieces with conviction, technical prowess and enthusiasm. Each work proves that the critic who declared that Britain was a “land without music” before Parry penned his Prometheus Unbound (1880) or Elgar knocked out his Enigma Variations (1899) is manifestly wrong. These pieces for flute and piano may not be masterpieces in the accepted sense of the word, but each one is an important and worthy contribution to the flautist’s repertoire. And, occasionally, the music rises to the heights of the sublime. The Romanza from Horsley’s Sonata is a case in point. The liner notes by Christopher Howell, as usual, are definitive.

John France

 




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