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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Introduction and Variations on ‘Trockne Blumen’ from Die Schone Müllerin D. 802 [20:25]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Serenade in D Op. 41 (1803) [24:15]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
3 Romances Op. 94 (1849) [11:07]
3 Lieder [8:04]
Ransom Wilson (flute)
Peter Frankl (piano)
rec. 2014, Wyastone Leys, UK

There is a serenity held in turbulence. That in itself offsets the Italianate glaze of these works. Ransom Wilson’s flute proves an ideal Neapolitan reflection of the great days of that city’s dominance of the instrument, before it moved permanently to France. These works are mostly Italianate in style, though.

The searching chromatic opening of Schubert’s Introduction and Variations on ‘Trockne Blumen’ from Die Schone Müllerin D. 802 gathers intensity but it is not long before it is dispersed. It gives way after the introduction to a spinning off of variations; they move us some distance from the refractive griefs of the song cycle that gave it a cantus firmus, so to speak. It is a delicious multi-faceted piece but it does not explore any particular difficulties for the instruments.

Beethoven’s Serenade in D Op. 41 from 1803 is an arrangement of his earlier Op. 25. It now lacks a bass line that a little doubling on the piano and some darker flute notes suggest. It is again one of those works you hope will deliver something of the intensity of Weber’s later Flute Trio of 1819, but it does not. Really, the movements are sets of variations too. It is sunlit, dappled with little of the thew and struggle of early mature Beethoven. This is still a late-classical composition, designed for traditional serenade use, and Wilson delights in evoking it. It is delightful functioning as a Suite for Flute and Piano. Peter Frankl again has quite a distinctive role, with a whiff of seriousness in some of the flickering movements, like the very brief Adagio before the finale.

Schumann’s Three Romances Op. 94 – which come in several guises – are beautifully gradated by both performers. This is expressively the high point of the recital. The Op. 94 is like an envelope where identically-marked outer movements bring a different refraction on matter, with that curious Einfach, innig movement at the core.

The Three Lieder house one classic. Widmung Op. 25/1 is from the great flourishing of song of 1840. The flute takes the singer’s anxiously joyous part ecstatically. Meine Rose Op. 90/2 is a later hidden gem. It is appealing Biedermeier in the best sense where the flute’s lyricism is covered with a degree of filigree and intricate piano counterpointing. Finally, a poignant recovery. Romanze Op. 138/5, Fluthenreicher Ebro, is a song from the very end of Schumann’s career. Here its shy melody is allowed to blossom. It does so to haunting effect, like the ghost of a rose perhaps.

The music is distinctively idiomatic, even in this slim range. Wilson and Frankl know how to project it. It is very good to have discovered Wilson. Frankl, nearing 80 when this recording was made, plays with effortless distinction, conveying the astonishing breadth of his career. There is no reason to hesitate if the palette suits, and it should suit, at least for sweltering August. Ideal summer music with a dark wistfulness to grasp your attention at the close.
Simon Jenner

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