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Franz Anton HOFFMEISTER (1754-1812)
Hoffmeister’s Magic Flute Volume I
Quartet in c minor for flute, violin and cello, H.5929 [13:22]
Trio (Sonata) in B-flat for flute, violin and cello, Op.11/2 [15:25]
Duetto in G for flute and violin [14:00]
Trio (Sonata) in D for flute, violin and cello, Op.11/3 [11:25]
Flute Quintet in E-flat for flute, violin, two violas and cello, Op.3 [17:09]
Boris Bizjak (flute)
Lana Trotovšek (violin)
Piatti Quartet
rec. 2019, St Nicholas Church, Thames Ditton, UK
All first recordings 
Reviewed as 24/96 press preview.
SOMM SOMMCD0620 [71:26]

Hoffmeister’s music has received some attention on record, but we’re not overwhelmed for choice, though his output was very considerable. My top recommendation would be the volume devoted to his music in the Chandos Contemporaries of Mozart series (CHAN10351, London Mozart Players/Matthias Bamert – review – or CHUSB018, USB stick containing 24 albums – see review of release on two USB sticks, also still available).

The new Somm recording – promised as the first volume – brings us five of his chamber works which are receiving the first recordings. I can’t claim that anything here approaches the level of a masterpiece, but it’s all very well crafted – ideal for soothing the furrowed brow after a trying day. Although the flute is the constant factor in all the works, there’s a degree of variety in the accompaniment. The longest work, the Flute Quintet, Op.3, is scored for the unusual combination of flute, violin, two violas and cello, with Michael Trainor, second violin of the Piatti Quartet, switching to the viola here.

As a music publisher in Vienna, Hoffmeister counted Haydn, Mozart – a fellow Freemason – and Beethoven among his clients, though his business didn’t prosper. At its best, his music is at least reminiscent of Mozart, but I imagine that if one played the Mozart Flute Quartets or his Concerto for flute and harp immediately afterwards – I didn’t try it – the difference in inspiration would be apparent. Despite the fact that he supposedly disliked the flute, Mozart wrote some very fine music for it.

The booklet mentions the influence of the Sturm und Drang movement on the opening quartet, H5929, but it’s fairly benign by comparison with Haydn’s similarly influenced music; there’s rather more Enlightenment than storm here. Indeed, Christopher Morley’s notes in general, while very informative, do perhaps gild the Hoffmeister lily a little too much.

Not only is the music receiving its first recording, the principal performers are fairly new to the recording studio – for both this is their début with Somm. The flautist, Boris Bizjak, has not yet appeared in any of our reviews, but he makes a good case for the music of Hoffmeister. Lana Trotovšek has recently been recorded by another enterprising company, Toccata Classics (Napravnik: Chamber Music Vol.1, TOCC0305). She is more at home with Hoffmeister than on the Napravnik recording, where Jonathan Woolf reports that she is sometimes drowned by the pianist, and rather lacking in romantic fervour – review. Not too much fervour needed in Hoffmeister, though the performers rise to the sometimes virtuosic demands.

The Piatti Quartet are more established recording artists; I liked their recording of Mozart’s own arrangement of some of his early piano concertos for piano and string quartet, with Gottlieb Wallisch the soloist (Linn CKD424 – review), and they don’t disappoint here. (The Linn, though originally released on SACD, now appears to be CD only, though some dealers still have the SACD and there are 24-bit downloads from Linn.)

Flute lovers may be more excited by a recent Channel Classics recording on which Ashley Solomon plays a variety of wooden and ivory flutes from the Spohr collection in music from a slightly earlier epoch (CCS43020 – review pending). If you go for just one flute recording this month, that’s the one to choose. The new Somm is also very attractive, however, albeit without the interest of historical instruments – Bizjak is pictured in the booklet with a modern flute.

Attractive, if hardly great, music, persuasively performed and well recorded. My press preview came in 24-bit sound, but the CD should be little inferior.

Brian Wilson

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