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Franz Anton HOFFMEISTER (1754-1812)
Flute Quartets Op 18 (?1787/88)
No 1 in G major [11:52]
No 2 in D major [11:24]
No 3 in A minor [12:54]
No 4 in F major [8:51]
No 5 in B-flat major [5:12]
No 6 in C major [11:26]
Andreas Blau (flute)
Christoph Streuli (violin)
Ulrich Knörzer (viola)
David Riniker (cello)
rec. 10-12 December 2019, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem
TUDOR 7207 [62:15]

Franz Anton Hoffmeister is better known amongst musicologists as a publisher than as a composer, though the Naxos label has been recording his flute concertos in recent years. He studied law in Vienna, leaving in 1778 to serve as Kapellmeister to a nobleman in Hungary. By 1784 he had returned to Vienna where he set up a music publishing business, establishing a close association with Mozart. This business went bankrupt however, and he took the risk of establishing the “Bureau de Musique”, another publishing enterprise on which he embarked with the Leipzig organist Ambrosius Kühnel. This rapidly flourished and was later taken over by C.F. Peters.

Hoffmeister was prolific as a composer of chamber music but recordings of his music seem to be somewhat patchy in nature. These Flute Quartets Op 18 are therefore world première recordings. This might seem surprising, but there are apparently around 100 quartets and quintets with flute from this composer, so this is going to be a rich source of material for someone in the future. The flute part for these works has a certain amount of built-in virtuosity and clearly has a skilled player in mind, while the string parts are accompanying in nature and relatively straightforward in a technical sense, with occasional flourishes from the violin. This is not to say that the string instruments have little to do, and Hoffmeister cleverly gives them thematic material and plenty of action, putting them in the foreground from time to time to create a satisfying chamber music exchange of textures and ideas.

Basically, if you like Mozart’s flute quartets you will very much enjoy this collection, and Hoffmeister clearly knew examples by Haydn and Mozart in the genre, for instance acquiring their fondness for tender pianissimo endings to movements. These quartets sparkle with inventiveness, introducing major/minor drama into the harmonies, and paying detailed attention to thematic development rather than repetition or sets of variations. The virtuoso element in the flute part is often taken up with rapid arpeggio or up and down scales but these moments give a secondary impression, with lyrical phrases and thematic character predominating. Cadenzas in these quartets can be compared to those of Mozart’s piano concertos, but Hoffmeister keeps everything tight and compact as can be seen from the relatively brief duration of each piece.

Andreas Blau and his colleagues are all members of the Berliner Philharmoniker and their playing is admirable in every aspect, from dynamics and phrasing to tonal colour. Blau’s vibrato is restrained and natural and by no means ubiquitous, and the recorded balance is very nicely done in the fine Jesus-Christus-Kirche acoustic, a proven environment for all kinds of recordings. As Dr. Peter Keller correctly sums up in his booklet notes, “these recordings do not merely document the artistry of so-called minor masters, but are a valuable addition to our view of the brilliant epoch of Viennese classicism.”

Dominy Clements

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