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The Consort

Rosie Bowker

Volume 76, Summer 2020

Christian Michael Wolff
Concerto in C major for flute, strings and continuo
ed. Michael Talbot
Edition HH, HH466.FSC, Launton, 2019 (pbk, £14.50)
ISMN 979 0 708146 76 6

We flute players are continually grateful to Michael Talbot and Edition HH for unearthing some delightful compositions for flute which have lain dormant for centuries. Many are hiding in plain sight, as in the case of Christian Michael Wolff’s Flute Concerto in C major. It has been sitting in the shelves of libraries in Stockholm since the individual parts were copied by members of the Stockholm court orchestra probably some time shortly after the concerto was composed in the 1740s.

The concerto in C major is one of four orchestral works that Talbot has edited and published recently, two of which are flute concertos. All four works are likely to have been completed by the organist and composer Christian Michael Wolff (1707–89) in fairly close succession. As Talbot sets out in his excellent introduction, these compositions probably travelled from Wolff’s birthplace, Stettin (now Szczecin in Poland), to Sweden via northern German cities, due to strong political ties and the Baltic trade routes. Wolff also had a personal connection with Berlin as he spent ‘three formative years (1729–32) in Berlin’, probably meeting figures such as J.J. Quantz who may have inspired and influenced Wolff’s instrumental music writing.

The Concerto in C comprises three movements, typical of post-Vivaldi Italianate concertos, with the middle Affettuoso in the relative minor. All the movements are in ritornello form and structurally the piece obeys the typical ‘rules’ of the period. The opening Moderato is characterised by Lombardic rhythms in which a short accented note is followed by a longer one – these appear from the second phrase, and the flute part contains quick changes between triplet figuration, strings of Lombardic appoggiaturas and virtuosic flourishes to keep the player on their toes. The Affettuoso opens with a mournful descending melodic line and conversational writing between the bass and the violins and viola. There is extensive use of dynamics: the instructions to play p, pp (which denotes piu piano according to the editorial notes) and f are used liberally in the opening ritornello section. The final Allegro is the most exciting and virtuosic of the movements. Wolff employs dramatic dynamic contrasts again, with sudden forte explosions for one bar in what can be seen as foreshadowing Sturm und Drang style. Melodically more chromatic and rhythmically interesting, this is an exciting ending to a brilliant concerto.

With regard to the edition itself, the notes at the end of the score are extremely clear, concise, and logical. The solo and tutti sections are helpfully marked in the score where they appear in the original flute part. The edition also provides a useful (if slightly busy) editorial realisation of the bass part. There are no figures because, as the editor observes, ‘the source is wholly unfigured’, so some interpretation and modification of the harmonies could be explored. Talbot notes that the realisation provided ‘is primarily for the benefit of those inexperienced in keyboard realization’ so he encourages more experienced keyboard players to ‘customize (or even ignore) it according to their preferences and the performing conditions’.

This concerto is available from Edition HH in a version for flute and keyboard reduction for £12.50 and a set of parts is available as a digital download for £35, though I have only seen the score. I would highly recommend this concerto to any flute player wishing to explore what its editor describes as an ‘important contribution to the flute repertoire’: it is a beautiful, intelligent and well-proportioned work. It is a delightful find for any player who wishes to explore a concerto outside the traditional realms of Mozart or Vivaldi but does not want to compromise on quality. It provides plenty of variety, virtuosic challenges and melodic lyricism and is well worth exploring for performers and audiences alike.

We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.

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