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A beautiful luminosity

Mozart for organ and flute
in Prague,
reviewed by

HLMClassics    HLMC 0004

W A Mozart in Prague. Zofie Vokalkova, flute; Kathleen Scheide, organ. © 2002 HLM Classics

The title of this CD raises expectations of absolutely standard fare but turns out to be misleading -- which is not entirely a bad thing, actually, since we are already well supplied with recordings of almost everything Mozart wrote. In the first place, the disc contains music by Leopold Mozart as well as his son; in the second, it is the recording, not Mozart, that is 'in Prague' -- specifically, in St Wenceslas' church in that lovely city.

Lacking anything original by Mozart for their combination of instruments (organ and flute respectively), Kathleen Scheide and Zofie Vokalkova have transcribed and arranged pieces from a variety of sources. The early flute sonata in Bb (K15), the Andante in C (K315) for flute and orchestra, and the Rondo in C (K373) for violin and orchestra, are all quite straightforwardly transcribed for flute and organ. The sonata in Bb for piano duet (K358) becomes, just as directly, a sonata for organ -- the only solo item on the disc [listen to the opening of the finale -- track 11, 0:00-0:26].

All these are well known, but the remainder of the works are not. They comprise an Adagio (K356) for Glass Harmonica, Andante and fugue (K402) for violin and piano (new to me, at any rate), Andante (K616) for a small mechanical organ or 'flute clock', and three menuets by Leopold Mozart composed for a larger instrument of the same kind. None of the pieces for mechanical organ aspire to greatness, but all are far better crafted than one might have expected. Leopold Mozart's contribution is a particularly happy discovery [listen -- track 5, 0:00-0:46].

The performances are unproblematical: both players are perfectly comfortable with the music, which neither demands, nor gives much opportunity to display, virtuosity. The recording is also generally good. It is more or less what one would hear in a live concert in the church, the flute sounding pleasingly warm and direct while the organ is more distant and slightly blurred by the acoustic. Such blurring is unavoidable in any reverberant space and must influence the choice of works, since faster pieces lose clarity and vitality while slower items can gain a beautiful luminosity. This is undoubtedly why Scheide and Vokalkova have chosen so few lively items; and their strategy works, though at the expense of variety.

Given that the performance and the recording are not exceptional in any way and that the music that is not well known is rather trivial, this disc will be of interest -- or not -- primarily for its instrumentation.

How the listener responds to transcriptions per se is essentially a matter of taste. Purists will of course have lost interest in this disc long ago, but one shouldn't always let ideology stand in the way of enjoyment. Many of these arrangements are quite satisfying in their own right, and the organ is certainly as good a substitute for orchestral accompaniment as a piano would have been.

Those with a special affection for organ will thank Scheide for (as she herself might put it) making up for Mozart's inexplicable failure to leave us much music for it. Many others will also enjoy the results of her work. See what you think [listen to the opening of the Rondo K373 -- track 8, 0:00-1:10].

Copyright © 14 September 2004 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


W A Mozart in Prague

HLMC 0004 DDD Stereo 72' HLMClassics 2002

Zofie Vokálková, flute; Kathleen Scheide, Zizkov organ of Kostel Sv Václav (St Wenceslas Church), Prague

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Sonata in B flat K15; Andante in F K616; Leopold Mozart (1719-1797): Der morgen und der Abend; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Andante in C K315; Rondo in C K373; Sonata in B flat K358 (organ solo); Adagio in C K356; Andante and Fugue in A major/minor K402 (1782)


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