Spohr vol3 CCS46024

The Spohr Collection Volume 3
Ashley Solomon (flutes)
Rowan Pierce (soprano)
rec. 2023, Dorpskerk Rhoon, Netherlands
Channel Classics CCS46024 [77]

This is the third volume in a series of recordings using instruments from Peter Spohr’s huge private collection of over 600 flutes dating from the 1680s to the mid-nineteenth century. In the spirit of Hamlet’s authoritative direction to ‘suit the action to the word’, Ashley Solomon has again selected the most appropriate instrument to play for the chosen piece, not an easy matter when a number of flutes in the collection are fragile and some may only be playable for a short amount of time before their deficiencies become apparent. Which is hardly surprising, of course, given their great age and doubtful condition. This third volume nevertheless features nine flutes, including two by the maker Cahusac, one in ivory and the other, made two decades later, in boxwood/ivory.

The works vary across the genres. Mozart’s Flute Quartet is more of a divertimento offering the members of Florilegium few opportunities other than to provide a tissue of string underlay for the solo instrument. Solomon emerges with great credit here, just tapering his skill to the emotive temperature of this light-hearted music. He plays on a Dresden instrument of 1770 made by Glenser, all the more appropriate when one knows that Mozart’s quartet was composed in 1777. The Sonata attributed to Vivaldi is probably not by him – I’m no Vivaldi scholar but it certainly doesn’t sound anything like Vivaldi to me – and might be Johann Martin Blochwitz. What’s not in doubt is the tonal lustre of the high pitch Castel flute made in Venice in 1730.

Stronger, strictly musical virtues can be heard in W.F. Bach’s Sonata in E minor composed around 1780. Harmonically advanced, its slow movement foreshadows the Classical era to come, with its long alluring lines temporarily arrested by decorative and voluptuous curlicues. Locatelli offers more solid, not necessarily stolid, virtues. Conventional though it is, it’s laced with necessary virtuosity and played on an ivory flute made by Eerens in Utrecht in 1740. The last sonata is by Pepusch and its Baroque-era qualities were originally cast for violin in A minor, here being refashioned for flute in B minor and played on an ivory Schuchart flute made in London in 1740. This is its first recording in this new guise.

There are four pieces, interspersed between the sonatas, that add bravura and tunefulness to the programme. The first is John Frederick Lampe’s aria Pretty Warblers from Dione, attractively sung by soprano Rowan Pierce and played by Solomon on a boxwood/ivory Gedney flute of 1760. Emma Kirkby sang this on disc many years ago. Walter Clagget’s Scots Airs – two from a book of 36 – offer different qualities. The second air features a larger accompanying group and a more adventurous but still admirably brief series of variations. Thomas Chilcot’s Orpheus with his Lute, from his Twelve English Songs, is again sung finely by Pierce. Finally, in another mini survey of Scottish airs, comes Francesco Barsanti who contributes two from his own collection; once again, tuneful and admirably concise.

The variety in tone colour and pitch of the flutes gives this selection a sense of character and that’s before we come to the varied selection of music, which wisely gives us sonatas as well as the pleasures of song and Scottish airs. It adds up to a winningly played, adeptly annotated and finely recorded volume.

Jonathan Woolf

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Presto Music

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Flute Quartet in D major, K285 (1777)
John Frederick Lampe (1703-1751)
Dione: Pretty Warbler (1733)
Attrib. Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Sonata in E minor (Stockholm ms) (1730s)
Walter Clagget (1742-1798)
36 Scots Airs: Logie o’Buchan and The Lass of Paties Mill (1762)
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784)
Sonata in E minor, IBW58 (c. 1780)
Thomas Chilcot (1700-1766)
Twelve English Songs: Orpheus with his Lute (1744)
Pietro Locatelli (1695-1764)
Sonata Op.2 No.8 in F major (1732)
Francesco Barsanti (1690-1772)
A Collection of Old Scots Tunes: Lord Aboyne’s Welcome or Cumbernauld House and Lochaber
Johann Christoph Pepusch (1667-1752)
Sonata No.16 in B minor (Cheney Flute Sonatas manuscript)